Open Water Swimming Tips: Sighting & Navigation


Hello Future SwimVacationers!

This is the first in a series of open water swimming tips from SwimVacation. I hope you find the information about sighting and navigation useful.



No Black Line

Perhaps the biggest thing that separates open water swimming from pool swimming is the need to navigate. It's also what makes open water swimming challenging, exciting, and sometimes frustrating. Proper sighting and navigation reduces fatigue, improves stroke efficiency, and is crucial to a safe, fun swim.

The Goal

Whether it's a training swim or a race, it helps to have a destination. Study the view to your destination from both in and out of the water, choosing a landmark to sight on. It might be a tall tree, a rock outcropping, a big orange buoy, a building, or a hilltop. Avoid sighting on things that move, like clouds, people, and vehicles. Also remember that the object you sight on may need to change during your swim. For instance, at the start your swim you may sight on a hilltop, but as you near your destination, a buoy at the finish may come into view.

The Glance

In order to see where you're going while doing crawl stroke, you have to alter your stroke by looking ahead rather than to the side during a breath. This is called "sighting". Sighting takes energy, so you want to limit the number of times you pick your head up during the swim. The term "alligator eyes" has been used to describe how much to lift your head; your mouth does not need to clear the water. After lifting your eyes, turn your head to the side and take a normal breath. If you don't see your target on the first try,

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try again on the very next stroke.

Hopper's "Swim Straight" Trick

Without the black line in the pool, many swimmers find themselves veering off to the left or right of their target in open water. Rather than trying to change your stroke, try taking a mental snapshot of your target when you sight on it. Now visualize that target and "throw" your hands at it during every stroke between sightings. Repeat the process at the next sighting. You can also visualize a rope pulling you from the top of your cap toward the target. Race tip: don't stop swimming and don't do breast stroke to make a sighting. Keep swimming and sighting until you see your target. With practice you will gain confidence in your navigational ability, and reduce the number of sightings to one every 12 to 16 strokes.

Feel free to contact us at SwimVacation with any questions or comments about our open water tips.

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