So referencing a shark movie may not be the best way to introduce a perspective switch on open water; however if you change what you pack and how you approach the water beyond the pool you can be the shark. Whether you want a faster swim split, a new endurance challenge or a dolphin encounter before work the source for all that and more comes from combining the best practices of pool swimmers, lifeguards, marathon swimmers, surfers and paddlers. This season find room in your swim bag for some of the following:
Multiple Pairs of Goggles – Maybe you set a record in the 50 free wearing your original, clear Swedish goggles, but if you are heading into the ocean go bigger and have more options. You need to see flags, buoys, boats, wildlife and waves so look for something bigger with an unrestricted field of vision and lens appropriate for varying light conditions. Try the polarized Surge from FINIS, the ultra comfortable Kayenne from Aqua Sphere or the wide ranges of tints from Roka.
Fins – Take a load off your shoulders, push the pace or hang with your faster training partners. Lifeguards do it, and so should you. Check out open water specific fins like those from DaFin used by the US Lifeguard Association, or the fast, comfortable and versatile Edge fins from FINIS.
Caps – If your head is comfortable the rest of you body will be too. Wear two caps or use a thin neoprene cap under a brighter latex cap to keep your head warm. Black may look cool, but in the open water go bright and be seen.
Rescue Cans – Think of it as dragging that pool wall with you wherever you swim. Towing a rescue can makes you visible, keeps you safe and could save others as well. Confidence comes from an ability to push the pace for a few minutes and then knowing the “Wall” is always 6’ away for a recovery before the next set. There are also inflatable safety floats that are often required equipment in the UK. Many of these also have waterproof sections to hold valuables or refueling options when you are offshore.
Boards – Stand Up Paddling or “SUP” is one of the fastest growing water sports in the country and can give you access to water where swimming won’t work. Prone paddling can also get you into the water with the added benefit of improving your swimming. Paddling focuses on the power part of your swimming stroke and can give you the chance to go places and distances that swimming alone may not afford. Stealing from the land based “Ride & Ties” where two runners share one horse to cover long distances faster, two swimmers and one board can do the same thing. Spend an hour or so alternating between swimming and paddling with a partner for an experience you just can’t get between lane lines. The most versatile, durable and easy to transport boards for training, racing and surfing are “Spec” boards that are 10’6” long and only 17 pounds. These are the international standard for surf lifesaving sports, and in the U.S. check out Dolphin boards at www.barrierwaterman.com.
Workouts – If every open water workout you do is like your long slow distance run then that is exactly how every open water race or triathlon is going to go. The same workout you use in the pool can work in the ocean. Replace “Yards” with “Stroke Cycles” and don’t be afraid to swim faster. Every time your right hand hits the water is a “Cycle,” or if you have the luxury of a marked open water course treat the distance between buoys the same way you do the walls of the pool.
The bottom line is that once you leave the pool you are no longer limited by a line on the bottom. Change how think and feel about the water this year, and watch for a positive impact on land as well.
Bruckner Chase is a triathlon and swim coach, ocean lifeguard trainer, endurance waterman and ocean advocate whose marine and community endeavors have taken him to waters around the world is places such as Australia, American Samoa, Denmark, Greece and Poland. He is a global ambassador for the Lifesaving World Championship 2018 organizing committee, and he is the Technical Director and Media Ambassador for the Red Bull Surf + Rescue Championships. Closer to his home in New Jersey he is a member of the Sea Girt Beach Patrol and the founder of the Ocean City Swim Club. He is a professional member of the US Lifeguard Association, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Swim Coaches Association.
Bruckner’s athletic career spans the most challenging events on water and land. He competed as a professional triathlete, and he continues to be an elite level competitor in every endurance sport he takes on. On the water Bruckner has completed multiple ultra-distance swims and paddles in some of the harshest conditions imaginable: a record setting no wetsuit swim in Alaska, a 22-mile swim of Lake Tahoe and historic swims between the islands of American Samoa. Bruckner competes in professional surf lifesaving sports across multiple aquatic disciplines. He is the fifth American in history to compete in the iconic Coolangatta Gold Surf Iron Man in Australia, and in 2016 he became the only American to finish the event three times and the first to earn a spot on the winner’s podium.