what makes open water swimming cool?
Freedom! Escape! The sense of achievement as you hold mankind’s age-old nemesis at bay for the first time in your life is one you will not forget as long as you live. Possibly you will celebrate the moment every time you cut through the surface of a lake or the ocean.
To get started in the pool, the minimum you would need is your costume, cap and goggles. As you become more proficient, you might want to purchase specialised swim fins and a kickboard to improve your swim style.
training for novices
Start pool swimming before you attempt open water swimming. You need a certain confidence before you start thinking about swimming in open water. Find a reputable swim squad at a local pool or school and ensure you are 100% confident in the calm waters of a pool. If you’re out of school you can join a club with an age group programme.
In general a young age grouper will train at least four times a week. Your club coach will advise. Obviously everyone is different and the distance covered every time you train will vary.
Galas in the winter are mostly short course (swum in a 25m pool). Great for new young swimmers. Winter season runs from May to end October. In summer the galas are mostly swum in 50m pools – which is known as long course swimming. Galas are swum on different levels, depending on your speed. Young swimmers may start at level 0, and move up to level 3 as they improve.
Premier Provincial Championships are held at the end of December and Level 1 Champs in January. Level 1 Ð 3 have National Championships from the end of February, culminating with Senior Nationals in April. Swimmers must qualify for these champs, after which the clubs have a break ready to start the new season. To race competitively you must belong to club that is affiliated to your provincial swimming body, which is in turn affiliated to Swim SA.
Swimming alone in open water is not a good idea – ever. Always do your best to swim either with at least one partner or where there are people (yachties, surfski paddlers, surfers) close at hand who can assist you should you get into difficulty. Having the luxury of a support boat following you in long open water swims is top prize.
For the smaller detail, if you’re swimming between 10am and 3pm, don’t forget sunscreen. You can still get fried by the sun even if the water is cool!
For your training sessions in the pool, take along a water bottle with your regular sports drink and sip between sets. Drinking while swimming long open water events is not possible unless there are feed stations. Make sure you are well-hydrated before events longer than 5km and fuel up with an energy drink and a small snack. Don’t eat too much or you may feel uncomfortable during the swim.
contacts & events
South Africa is home to the largest timed open water swimming event in the world, the Midmar Mile. The SPAR Redhouse River Mile near PE is also an event to look out for. Many multisport events and triathlons require you to swim in a dam anywhere between 200m to 1.6km.
Swimming South Africa www.swimsa.co.za