How To Transition From Pool To Open Water

by SwimSwam Partner Content 1

September 29th, 2017 Open Water

The world of open water swimming has gained more popularity as of late with many elite pool swimmers trying to make the transition. Even some of the best distance swimmers in the world have failed at making this transition for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is that even the lower distance races are longer than anything done in a pool. Open water swims usually occur in the following distances, 3k, 5k, 10k, and for those distance swimming animals there is even a 25k! The following are the ways that a great pool swimmer can make the successful transition into open water.


Drafting happens in both pool swimming and open water swimming. In both situations the swimmer is drafting to save energy for a last push. For open water this is much more important as getting a good draft can mean the last 500 meters can be as fast as possible. Those people who sprint to get ahead in the open water swimming should be the victim of this drafting. The swimmers with heavy kicks can make it easy to draft as it allows the drafter to surf their wake if they stay on the other swimmer’s hip.

Vaseline or Other Anti-Chaffing

One huge problem that many new open water swimmers has is that of chaffing on the shoulders and neck area. This can become such a problem that the swimmer can end up bleeding or with irritation that can take weeks to go away. Lubricating areas like the neck, shoulders, and even a swimmer’s lats to avoid irritation. If you are not sure how to go about this other open water swimmers will be happy to help as most of them have felt the pain of chaffing after a 10k in saltwater.

Suit Up For Speed and Comfort

An important factor when it comes to training or competing in open water is finding the right swim suit. This could be a reliable pair of Watermen compression shorts as this will help increase blood flow to the extremities which full body suits can inhibit. Original Watermen has many great pairs of men’s compression shorts to choose from, that will deliver the comfort as well as the speed in a single pair. As with most of their men’s and women’s swim suits, they boast a rash-free guarantee, which is nearly unheard of in the compression shorts industry.

Finally, open water swimmers can wear rashguards under their wetsuits. Rashguards can prevent wetsuit chafe, and add an extra layer of security for the swimmer.


Training for an open water race can be done through a variety of ways. For colder climates it can be beneficial to swim in a pool without lane lines as well as buoy markers to help simulate a race. A huge mistake that many first time competitors make is not touching the finish line instead of just swimming through it. A training regimen of both pool and open water training is advised. The advantage that the pool has is that you can chart progress as well as splits. This can be difficult to do in open water as the water could be rougher or even the tide could be going in and out. Current play a huge role in these races so many of the international races are held in more controlled environments.

The transition from the pool to open water will not be easy but it is very possible to be successful in both. Try out a few smaller local races if you are an elite swimmer to help you understand more of the strategy like eating and hydrating stations that are a fact of life in open water. The world is your pool, take advantage of it!

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.

Open water content is courtesy of Original Watermen, a SwimSwam partner.

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Stephen Hethcote

JD on Maui hosts 2k event from Kahekili Beach to Black Rock and return in late August, in memory Sophie.

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