Our top 6 tips to start open water swimming

Swimmer in lake

Open water swimming in a river or lake is very different to pool swimming, as water conditions and environmental factors can vary from day to day. There are a number of things that you might want to consider before entering the water, Rav Dighe, MD and Head Coach at Aloha Tri shares his top considerations before you jump in, so you will have a safe and enjoyable time in the water.

Water Safety

Even if you swim at the same venue on a regular basis, environmental conditions can radically affect water conditions, so check for anything that might impact your swim like water temperature, wind and currents. Also, does the lake provide water safety officers? If not, always swim with a buddy! (We have water safety at Merchant Taylor’s.)

Open Water Gear

If the water temperature is under 20C or if you will be in the water for a long time, you will probably want to wear a wetsuit. Don’t forget goggles and a bright-coloured swim cap. You may even want to wear two caps to keep your head warmer.


Stay comfortable and relaxed. When you enter the water, you first need to acclimate to the change in temperature, visibility and overall feel in this new environment.

Swim Stroke

You will notice that some open water swimmers have very different techniques from pool swimmers. Learn to adapt your swim stroke to the open water.


In order to maintain a straight line out in the water, it’s important to navigate your local swim venue by using the swim buoys or landmarks that you can sight to on the horizon.


As it’s very difficult to estimate your distances in the open water, it’s important to work on your pacing. This can be done by varying your speed between swim buoys or even by counting your strokes and creating intervals for those counting sets.

Head to our open water swimming page to find out more about our open water swimming sessions at Merchant Taylors’ Lake, Northwood.