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Open Water

Open Water Swimming 101

No lanes, no lines, no limits in the wild blue yonder

Elaine K. Howley | July 9, 2014

Introduction to Open Water Swimming

See that out there? That wide-open expanse of blue loveliness? That’s open water. No walls. No lane lines. And best of all, no black line here.

If you’re new to open water swimming, there are some things you should know before you take your first plunge into that inviting blue yonder. This series of articles aims to provide would-be and new open water swimmers with the most basic information they need to feel confident joining in this beautiful sport that has growing international appeal.

Seems every day a new race or event appears on the docket, with throngs of swimmers clambering to the starting line. There are growing opportunities for Masters swimmers interested in making the leap from the concrete cell to the wilds of open water. 

Open water swimming is an inviting, inclusive sport, where being competitive isn’t restricted to being the fastest; maybe you can outlast the others, or maybe there are no others in your chosen event and it’s you against yourself. Those can be the toughest events of all. Dedicated open water swimmers also tend to be a welcoming, if a bit wacky, bunch, eager to share their knowledge and have new swimmers join them at their favorite swimming spots. From lakes and ponds to rivers and oceans, there’s bound to be some water near you that’s open and ready to be explored.

Are you ready to dive in? Great! Let’s go!

Open Water 101 Article Series

No lanes, no lines, no limits in the wild blue yonder
See that out there? That wide-open expanse of blue loveliness? That’s open...
The right tools can make all the difference in open water
If you’re already a pool swimmer, you probably have most of the gear you need...
Where and with whom you swim is an important safety factor
Now that you’ve got the right gear, let’s go swimming. But wait! Where are...
Marine dangers and how to best cope them
In ancient times, mariners dreaded venturing too far from the shoreline for...
Additional open water hazards and how to cope
Although ocean swimmers may have a greater range of water conditions to deal...
Managing feelings of anxiety and panic in open water
Although open water swimming can be one of the most calming, cathartic, and...
Picking the right open water event
It stands to reason, if you’re new to open water swimming and want to train...
You’ve selected an event—now what?
Just like in the pool, training for an open water race or event works best when...
An introduction to marathon swimming
The standard rules of marathon swimming state that any swim longer than 10...
Best practices for fueling long open water swims
The long-held belief that it’s unsafe for anyone to swim within 30 minutes of...
USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Elaine K. Howley

Elaine K. Howley is Associate Editor of U.S. Masters Swimming. A lifelong swimmer who specializes in cold water marathon swimming, she edits and writes for SWIMMER magazine, USMS.org, and the STREAMLINES eNewsletter series. 

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