The best technique, the fastest 100m times and the most innovative wetsuit are worthless in competition if you don't manage to follow the course in a straight line. What seems so simple at first glance can become a problem on race day. While orientation may be easy during training in your local open water swim, it may be a different story in unknown waters surrounded by 1,000 other swimmers, waves, and varying degrees of light.
To improve on the experience, we give you eight valuable tips for orientation in open water:
- Take a good look at the water before the competition. Try to find distinct landmarks that will help you find your way. These could be tall buildings, bridges, or prominent trees on the shore.
- When lining up your arm for the catch and pull phases of your stroke, try to push yourself slightly upwards out of the water. This will make it easier for you to lift your head and get sufficient visibility.
- When lifting the head, increase the leg kick to maintain the water position and speed.
- Look forward 2-3 times in succession. Use the first look to locate the buoy or landmark. Finally, correct or confirm your direction with the second look.
- In stronger waves, you must adjust your orientation to the rhythm of the waves. Always try to lift your head at the peak (top) of the wave. This way you can spot buoys that would otherwise disappear in the trough (bottom) of the wave.
- In choppy water, you should lift your head much higher to get a good overview of the course. On the return, however, try to minimize the number of glances. Lateral landmarks or other swimmers will help you maintain your direction.
- Do not breathe while looking ahead for orientation/sighting. First look forward briefly and then turn your head directly to the side to breathe. This will help maintain optimal body position
- Be sure to practice orientation in training. For example, you can swim behind a teammate who keeps changing direction. This way you are forced to orientate yourself more often. After a while, switch roles.