Double-Olympic silver medalist, Commonwealth and European swimming champion and Speedo ambassador Jazz Carlin has now retired from competition but isn't slowing down any time soon. Her new multi-sport calendar since retiring from professional swimming has so far included the Prudential Ride London and the Volcano Triathlon in Lanzarote. Here, Jazz shares her top tips for getting started in open water swimming.

Heading out for your first open water swim can feel quite scary and daunting. However, you really can't beat the feeling of swimming outdoors. 

After the Rio Olympics, I decided to compete in a few open water events which was completely new to me. I’d always swam in the sea on holidays but I had never done a race or competed in open water.

I discovered a local open water spot to get started and, after the first visit, all I could think was 'why have I never done this before?' It felt great to be outside and I felt so refreshed after getting out. It was honestly one of the most amazing feelings.

1. Find somewhere to swim

The first thing to do is to find a place to swim. There are plenty of good websites to find local spots to swim outdoors and lots of open water swimming groups. Whatever you do, start in a lifeguarded spot while you build your confidence.

For your first swim, I’d recommend going with someone. It's great if you know someone who has the experience to swim by your side but if you don't, just having somebody standing at the side for support is fine.


2. Make sure you have the correct equipment

  • Clear or light-tinted goggles so you can see where you’re going.
  • A bright swimming cap so you can be seen in the water.
  • A wetsuit would be great to start with, so you don’t have the shock of the cold. You'll also benefit from extra buoyancy.
  • Put on some anti-chafe lubricant. Swimming in the sea particularly causes more chafe with the saltwater causing a bit of friction.
  • Wear a flotation device. This just adds a bit of extra safety and allows you to be seen in the water.

3. Get some practice in at the pool

It can feel really strange to go from swimming up and down a black line at the pool to having no line to track in open water.

You can prepare for open-water swimming with a few drills in the pool.

If it is safe, close your eyes for 10-12 swimming strokes. This will allow you to practice without watching the black line. It's also an easy way to find out if you are stronger on one side.

Practice sighting into your stroke. I normally sight every 6-8 strokes, to make sure I'm heading in the right direction. Lift your head as high as necessary to sight. The more advanced you get with sighting the more you can incorporate it into your stroke and breathing pattern.

If you are interested to see how far you have swum, it’s good to get a swimming tracker that can measure the distance that you’ve swam.


4. Look after your back

Sighting can leave quite a strain on your back, so get as much practice in as you can before you head outdoors. It also helps to use a foam roller on your back before and after you swim to avoid any tightness.


5. Know your landmarks

If you are swimming in a particular direction, have a look to see if there are any landmarks that you can aim for when sighting. Even if you have buoys in the water, they can sometimes be small and difficult to see, so having a bigger landmark to aim for makes sighting a lot easier.


6. Start steady

Start your first open water swim pretty steady to get used to it and slowly build up your distance or time in the water. The more outdoor swimming that you do, the more confident you will become.


7. Set a goal

Find yourself an event to swim. It definitely helps to have an event to train for and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you swim!