Whether you are thinking of starting open water sea swimming or have been doing it for a while it is no harm to look at your techniques and safety again. Here are our top tips for successful open water sea swimming in an event.

We have gleaned these from experience and from years of welcoming thousands of swimmers to the Great Fjord Swim in Killary Fjord, Connemara.

Breathing tips

Breathing seems to be the one that quite literally catches us all in open water swimming especially if conditions are not ideal

  • Practice bilateral breathing – very useful if a safety boat passes by or you have a group of swimmers on one side and want to avoid the chop when breathing; also allows you to turn your head away from the direction of the waves
  • Practice taking less breaths – this can be helpful in the first part of the race when you are surrounded by splashing and are dealing with the effects of cold water
  • Take shorter breaths and point your face to the sky if water is choppy to avoid getting a mouthful of water on each breath
  • Practice in open water in a variety of conditions. We all know that pool swimming will not train you for the effects of choppy open water on your beathing so make sure you practice in the open water before any event.

Sighting & swimming straight

Get used to sighting so that you don’t lose direction and crash into other swimmers or make the journey longer than it has to be for yourself. Choose a landmark ahead of you and check that you are heading for it as you swim.

If you are swimming in a pool practice swimming in as straight a line as possible. As you push the water back behind you push it directly back rather than to the side.


You need to have a slightly higher stroke rate in open water than you would have in a pool to deal with any waves or chop and still keep yourself moving forward


If in need of a rest learn how to tread water effectively and also practice other swim strokes in case you need a break from freestyle.


This should always be your first thought when you swim – don’t swim alone; consider a two float; know the conditions; know your limits on that day; be prepared