Open water swimming

Triathletes competing in open water swimming

Open water swimming takes place in outdoor bodies of water such as open oceans, lakes, and rivers.

The beginning of the modern age of open water swimming is sometimes taken to be May 3, 1810, when Lord Byron swam several miles to cross the Hellespont (now known as the Dardanelles) from Europe to Asia.[1]

In the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the swimming competition was held in open water. In 2000, the Olympic Games first included a triathlon with a 1500 m swim leg, and in 2008, a 10 km open water swim. The FINA World Aquatics Championships features open water swimming events since 1992. The FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships was held from 2000 to 2010. Since 2007, the FINA 10 km Marathon Swimming World Cup is held in several events around the world.

The activity has grown in popularity in recent years with the publication of bestselling books on "wild swimming" by authors such as Kate Rew and Daniel Start, and Waterlog by Roger Deakin.[2]

Events such as the Midmar Mile in South Africa (attributed to Wayne Ridden), Great Swim in the UK (attributed to Great Swim with idea by Colin Hill), have helped create and grow interest in participation of the sport.

Racing techniques

Acclimatisation to the 14.5C water at Salford Quays in September 2010
Followed by warm-up exercises
And walk into the water:the start of the one mile course.

Stroke

Though most open water races do not require a specific stroke, most competitors employ the front crawl also known as freestyle. The efficiency of this stroke was demonstrated by Gertrude Ederle, who, as the first woman to swim the English Channel, employed it to beat the existing world record by more than 2 hours.

Sighting

When covering large distances, swimmers may head off course due to current, waves, wind, and poor visibility. Typically, buoys are stationed periodically across a large expanse to provide guidance. However, buoys are often invisible due to interference from choppy water and reduced visibility through goggles. Swimmers are encouraged to 'triangulate' by looking for two aligned, easily visible objects on land that are directly behind the destination (such as the end of a pier as it lines up with a hilltop), and to make sure they continue to appear aligned during the race.

Drafting

Drafting, which is prohibited by some race regulations, is the technique of following another swimmer so closely that water resistance is reduced. When swimming closely alongside or behind a swimmer in the lead swimmer's wake, resistance is reduced and the amount of effort to swim at the same speed is correspondingly reduced. In calmer conditions, or when facing surface chop, swimmers can also significantly benefit from swimming immediately behind or closely alongside a swimmer of comparable or faster speed. Not all race organizers permit drafting, and swimmers can run the risk of disqualification if they are caught.

Beach starting/exiting

When entering the water, swimmers can use techniques to take advantage of the shallow water. One such technique is walking along the bottom. Another technique is "dolphining", which involves diving down to the bottom and launching oneself upwards and forwards. This technique can also help to avoid incoming waves. When exiting the water, swimmers can body surf to take advantage of waves.