Five Simple Points On Tickling Feet In Open Water Competition

Courtesy of advertising partner Original Watermen

If you want to improve your race, try tickling some feet.  Yes, we are talking about drafting! The moment of rest in an open water distance swim is when it feels as though the swimmer’s toes that you’re following are actually helping reduce head water-resistance thus creating less drag. You’ll know the feeling when it’s your turn to be tracked by a foot-tickler.  Crowded open water swims are like a slow-mo version of NASCAR, with long stretches of straights and some extremely tight turns. To reach the front of the pack, a swimmer must know how to maneuver effectively in the mess of sloshy arms and legs, and anticipate every available opportunity to stretch those tired limbs.

The science of fluid-dynamics is sound and worth reminder. A streamlined object will move better in water than a blunt and bulky one. An object closely following another moving object, through a liquid or gas, will decrease the energy required to maintain the same speed as the object it’s following. You can get as scientific as your heart desires, but there are only a handful of simple things to concentrate on when you are picking which feet to follow. The first of these actually happens before the race even starts, but all five will surely help you make your way to the front without sapping all your energy by using streamlined techniques combined with compression swimsuits.

courtesy of Original Watermen

Gear Up to Excel – If you’ve done an open water swim before you know not to wear women’s two pieces or men’s boardshorts. You should consider further, as the material and even shape of the suit will affect how streamlined you are thus affecting how well you move through the water. Women make sure your one-piece fits tight without restricting range-of-motion and doesn’t have protruding seams and straps. Men should wear a jammer that doesn’t wrinkle up— a compression swimsuit like the Watermen Short. Its durable salt-and-sun-resistant material allows this compression suit to stay tight and keep grinding right there with you, swim after swim, race after race.

Don’t forget your cap, unless of course you’re a swimmer who enjoys the pre-race no-guard head-shave. And you’ll want to pick your goggles based on the sunlight conditions – so have a few different lens-shades stashed away for whatever race day brings your way.

The Right Speed – Find that perfect balance where you feel that you are swimming at your very best pace, but not losing time with short strokes to avoid molesting the feet you’re chasing. Like a dangling carrot in front of a donkey, follow a swimmer that is slightly faster than your usual pace, but not someone out of your fitness and training level.  Chasing the correct set of feet takes your mind off the race for brief moments and subconsciously will push you to achieve results you didn’t think were possible.

Bigger Person = Bigger Draftenough said.  Think of a Prius ten feet behind an eighteen-wheeler on the highway.

Stay Close – Get right up on those feet and tickle them. The closer you are to your opponent, the better the draft. Sometimes you might have to slow down a little to stay behind them. If so, try to figure out if there’s a better alternate to follow or if that speed is still better than going out into your own wake.

The benefits of these approaches amplify each other. Meaning each one builds on another one, starting with those benefits of the fluid-dynamic compression swimsuit you’ll be sporting.

Navigate Off Others – if you’re in the center of the pack there is a very good chance that those around you are looking where they are going.  So don’t worry, let them figure out the line and find the buoys— after all, they’re pretty hard to miss.  Let the competitors around you do that work. Put your head down and swim!

There are so many tricks to drafting, and a number of strategies to use; so try out various maneuvers, techniques and approaches to see what you like best and fits your racing style. Always use these five simple points to start and get out there and tickle some feet.

About Original Waterman

Like so many great things in the 70’s, we started in the back of a VW bus. Surfer and lifeguard, Ken Miller and future wife Jen, began making and selling water trunks. The first customers were Carlsbad locals and eventually the State of California lifeguards signed up for 36 red shorts.

Since those early days we have evolved and grown and eventually outfitted over 1700 organizations from local and state agency lifeguards and fire fighters to military special forces. Original Watermen, as a company, was created with a singular vision: provide the best quality, fit, and performance in every garment. Few industries have the opportunity to test their mettle each time a great set rolls in. We’re fortunate; we do.
At Original Watermen we measure our success by the performance of our products and the satisfaction of our customers. If you’re new to us, welcome aboard…it’s time to earn your salt.

Swimming news courtesy of Original Watermen, a SwimSwam partner.

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3 years ago

I’ll put it this way. If you are driving a car and come upon someone slower than you. You don’t push your front bumper into their rear end . So why do something similar in swimming when can easily go around then. Touch my feet and you won’t and expect the worse

Open Water Swammer
Reply to  Ross
3 years ago

You’ve obviously never competed in an open water race. Yes if the person is awfully slow pass them but when you draft you are going X speed using less energy. Over time that conservation of energy leads to the ability to increase speed in the end when it really counts to get to the finish first. Try swimming for 2+ hours by yourself and another 2+ with other people and draft. Then tell me what you think is best.