Swimming in the open water, such as the ocean, a lake, or river is vastly
different from swimming in a pool that is highly controlled, predictable,
and probably patrolled by lifeguards. In the pool, the water is crystal
clear and clean, water temperatures are more controlled, and there is
very little to worry about. There are no critters swimming around, no
strong currents, no tide changes, and the weather conditions are mostly
monitored by lifeguards who are trained to watch for severe weather
and evacuate the pool when weather threatens. Some pools even have
severe weather alert systems that sound when lightning is too close.
Swimming in that controlled environment in that clear water is
comfortable and easy. It doesn’t require much in the way of
environmental knowledge to swim safely, anxiety free, and to have fun.
Oceans, lakes, and rivers are anything but controlled and predictable environments. Every body of open water has unique characteristics that can both make it exciting to swim in but also make it dangerous. Environmental conditions, such as wind, waves, tides, and currents can really affect and change a body of water. Other earthly creatures live there and make it their home. The water often times is not very clear and water temperatures can change very quickly. Man made objects such as piers, jetties, and channel markers rise from the bottom creating hazards that must be avoided. A rocky shoreline or a riverbed of loose rocks and down trees create more unique opportunities for an open water swim. Boats and jet skis screaming across the surface and fishermen casting their lines also create potential hazards for open water swimmers. All of these environmental conditions can create anxiety, fear, and uncertainty for a new or veteran open water swimmer.
So what can be done to mitigate these hazards, reduce anxieties and fears, reduce risk, and have fun in the open water? One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself about the body of open water with which you plan to swim. Reading about, studying, and discussing with others the local environment provides the knowledge you need to make good decisions on when, where, and how to swim. You can:
Taking the time to educate yourself and understand your local bodies of water reduce anxieties and fears about the unknown, allow you to know when and where to swim safely, and above all, allow you to enjoy and have fun swimming in the open water world.
Take the next step in your swimming
Open Water Races