Tips from Trent: Navigating in Open Water Swimming

Here’s some great tips from Trent Grimsey on navigation. If you want to get some great open water swimming training, Trent is one of the go to guys – check out how you can train with Trent.

Navigating in Open Water

I think one of the hardest things to do in Open Water swimming is to navigate. There is nothing worse than swimming in big swell and not knowing if you’re swimming in the right direction. It happens to the best of us from time to time. That is why I’ve created this list to try and make it easier for you:
• Goggles – Have you ever had your goggles fog up during a race when you’re trying to sight a buoy? The way to prevent this is to never wear your training goggles in a race. New goggles don’t get foggy so try to wear a new pair whenever you race. If buying a new pair for each race is not an option for you, just have a separate pair that you only ever race in.
• The Course – How many times have you done a triathlon or ocean swim and not been 100% clear on the actual course? Always listen carefully in the race brief before the start. If you are not sure about something, stick your hand up and ask the question. The chances are most other swimmers don’t really understand the course either so you’ll be helping everyone by asking the question. It’s better to know too much about the course than too little. Study it and get to know it back to front.
• Drafting or pack swimming – Navigating will be a lot easier if you leave it to someone else to do. When drafting or in a pack slightly lift your head so you can see the feet of the person in front of you. You want to swim as close to this person as possible without touching their feet. If you touch their feet the element of surprise will be gone come the end of the race.
• Sighting – Sighting can get pretty tricky in big or choppy swell. It can get a little scary sometimes when you’re lifting your head to sight and all you can see are walls of water around you. This is why it’s very important to time your sighting with the swells. The best time to sight is when you can feel the swell picking you up and you know you’re on the highest point. If you sight when you’re on a low all you’ll be able to see is walls of water. Timing is everything!

If you’re leading or swimming by yourself in a race you should be sighting around every 6 strokes. If you’re drafting or swimming in a pack it’s still good to sight approximately every 20 strokes just to make sure the person or pack in front of you is taking the shortest line to the next buoy.


Trent Grimsey

English Channel Record Holder
2012 FINA Grand Prix Champion
2012 King of the Sea

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Open Water Racer

Drafting in open water races makes the races so easy it’s like cheating.

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Mike Lewis is a freelance commercial, sport and lifestyle photographer based in San Diego.  Mike began making photos in the early 80’s and immersed himself in all aspects of the photographic arts.  Mike’s professional career in in photography began after 12 years working within the United States Olympic movement; he …

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