In swimming, the rule of thumb goes like this: If you are a distance swimmer and the 1500-meter is just not long enough, then open water is for you. If you are a swimmer and you really enjoy working hard but you just can’t beat the pool specialists for whatever reason, then open water swimming is for you. Finally, if you like traveling and competing at various beaches, lakes and rivers, then open water swimming is for you.
Some people love the tactics and the willpower you need to battle not only your competition but also the various different conditions that you face while swimming open water events. Others get the chills just thinking about entering a swimming venue where they cannot see the bottom and where other living creatures are among them.
But let’s face the truth: Most of you are triathletes, and therefore do not have a choice.
If you want to race, then swimming is a part of your triathlon and the vast majority of your races include some type of an open water swim. If swimming is not your strongest discipline, then look on the bright side of things. Most of the reasons mentioned above about why swimmers get started with open water are because they are just not fast enough to compete at the highest level in the pool. All of these athletes have a lot of heart, just like you do, and they know that due to drafting and handling tough conditions better than others, they can get right in the mix of winning some of these events. One thing that is true about open water swimming is that the fastest athlete will not always win. If you cannot handle adversity or if you have poor tactics, even the fastest swimmers will have no chance of winning an open water race.
A good example is Grant Hackett of Australia, who was unbeaten in the 1,500-meter freestyle for a decade and decided to enroll in the 2007 FINA World Championship 10K race in order to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. It was not even close. That shows you that even the greatest distance freestyler in the history of swimming cannot just jump in the open water world and do great.
I’m not trying to scare you away from open water swimming, but rather trying to point out that it presents a great opportunity for swimmers who might not be the fastest in the pool. It’s all a matter of the attitude that you approach the rivers, lakes and oceans of this world.