Adapt Your Swim Stroke for Open Water

News and Updates

Swimming in the open water is very different from swimming in the pool because there are more factors in ocean swimming. Changing tides, contending with the waves and salt water, rougher surface due to strong currents — there are a lot of challenges in ocean swimming that can stop you from bringing your pool speed through.

In this article, swim expert Brenton Ford teaches three ways to optimize your stroke for the open water.


Recovery is the part of the stroke where your arm comes over the top of the water to prepare to enter for the next stroke. “Excellent swimmers in the open water tend to recover a little bit wider and a little bit higher with their hand,” says Brenton. Full-sleeved wetsuits encourage a straighter arm swinging wider; coupled with chop and waves, a higher and wider swing allows you unrestricted recovery, versus trying to keep the hand quite close to the surface of the water as most pool swimmers are encouraged to do.

Stroke Rate

When swimming in the sea, you’ll find that the added buoyancy due to the salt water lets you sit higher in the water. This makes it easier to turn your arms faster and allows your stroke rate to come a little bit higher than in the pool. You can turn this to your advantage. “Due to the lack of smoothness in the open waters, you’ll get less glide and distance per stroke. A slightly faster stroke rate can help a lot,” he adds.

Assertive Entry

“You don’t want to be overly controlled on where you’re putting your hands in the water,” says Brenton. In open water swims you’re more likely to be swimming with other people, so there’s going to be some chop in the water, unlike swimming in a pool where the surface is calmer. “You just need to get your hand in the water with a little bit of speed behind it. A faster hand entry to get your hand out in front of you gives you that balance and control, gives you the stability to handle choppy conditions,” he concludes.

(Header photo by Orca on Unsplash.)


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