View Full Version : How do I transition from pool to open water

December 16th, 2003, 12:51 PM
I am a beginning swimmer. I owe a lot to this forum for planting the seed and motivating me. I went from hating swimming to needing to swim, all in two months. Thanks.

Now that I've got the bug, I'd like to try open water this spring and summer. How do I transition from pool to open water? Are there CO2 activated life vests for swimming alone? I'm thinking of something that doesn't produce drag until activated such as an airline life vest. How does one navigate and keep clear or boats, fishing line, and logs? I live in Oregon where the seas are somewhat dangerous. How do you address rip tides, creeper waves, and sharks?

I'm also curious about what kind of goals I need to set to be able to participate in the organized swims. I swim between 45 and 60 minutes three to five times each week. How does this translate to distance?

I'm open to all advice.


Rob Copeland
December 16th, 2003, 05:45 PM
My first bit of advice is never swim alone in open water, especially if you are not completely confident of your open water abilities and the conditions at hand. If you can find an open water swim buddy you can not only learn from their experience but they are there for you in cases of emergencies.

As for flotation, instead of a life vest, I would suggest getting a wet suit (and Ill hear it form the purists on this), but a wet suit not only provides buoyancy, it will help with that cold water and a colorful wetsuit makes you more visible to boats. And the best way to address sharks is to call then Sir.

As for goals able to participate in the organized swims talk to the swim organizers and ask what they require for participation. 45 minutes to an hour 3 to 5 times a week sounds like a great base to get started, so talk to the Oregon masters and see how they can get you holed up.

December 16th, 2003, 08:45 PM
You are right the ocean in that part of the Pacific Northwest is dangerous. For the reasons you state. Plus rocks to get dashed up on. You will definately need a wetsuit. The Pacific is a mild ocean compared to the Atlantic but the West Coast is colder water in the surf then the east because its deep right up to the shoreline. You will want a swimmer type wetsuit not one for waterskiing or scuba. They are about 300 to 400 dollars. You will need some good goggles that you can see in and wont come of easy.Like Barracuda standards or Seal Mask. A insulated type swim cap in a bright color can keep your head warmer and let boaters see you. Some short fins can also help.Pureists wont like them but are you swimming in the sea for sport or for competing. For a sport swimmer the fins can give you extra power to help you stay up in surf and swim along the shore to get out of a rip tide . Yes there are inflateable types of life preservers..They look like suspenders and are sold in boat stores. They have a little bottle that inflates them. For swimming now..I dont know how that will go. Sharks feed early in the AM and late in the PM so avoid those times. attacks are real rare but anything can happen.
Try the new swim "gear" in the pool to get used to it..You will probably be asked why you are wearing a wetsuit..ect.. in the pool by others and when they find out you are getting ready for ocean swims they may want to join in or give your some ideas or people to get in touch with.
See my page on cold water swim caps . there are links to some ocean swimming places on the bottom of the page.Check them out . Let people on shore know when you are going for a swim and start out slow and gain experience, dont try to be too bold .
Swimming in the ocean can be great sport!


February 12th, 2004, 05:42 PM
When open water swimming there are strict rules:
1. Never swim alone.
2. Wear a bright coloured bathing cap.
3. Tell a friend where, when and for how long.
4. Keep a gel in your cap incase you get low on fuel.
5. Know the area where you will be swimming.
6. If possible let the locals know, and find out any hazadarous areas.
7. Have a support boat/water craft and crew with all the necessary emergency gear beside you.
8. Know the weather report.
9. Know the coloform count.

If you are going to swim in the ocean, learn to read the tide times. Also know where a safe beach is. Know if there are any rips, currents, undertow potholes etc. If you can, swim parallel to the shore as you can not always tell if a rip has occured and you could be on your way to Japan sooner than you thought.

If swimming in a lake, be aware of boaters, where the sun is in the sky, and general lay of the land.

If swimming in a river, always swim upstream first.

A wetsuit is fine, but not always necessary. Even way up north the ocean is still an acceptable temperature in the summer months. But it does cut down on the tactile experiences and that cuts down on the overly active imagination. So a more relaxed swim is the result!
"To motivate, add water."
"Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision"

February 15th, 2004, 06:20 PM
9. Know the coloform count


February 15th, 2004, 11:19 PM
You are absoultely right. Some lakes where the swim portion of the tri is held can have a higher than normal/acceptable count.
As a marathon open water swimmer I try hard to swim in lakes that are not too polluted. Fortunately where I live there are many beautiful crystal clear and warm lakes to choose from. But there is also the ones with higher than acceptable counts.
Swimmers should be aware. Especially those with compromised immune systems.