Getting started… Open Water Swimming 2014

This weekend saw three of the four RG Active open water swim venues open to athletes wanting to get in their wetsuits ahead of the fast approaching triathlon season.

This time last year Marsha and I tried to swim at Ham lake and managed about 10mins before having to get out before hypothermia set in. This year we are in a completely different situation with Ham, Stoke Newington and Redricks all being 12-13 degrees; a temperature we didn’t se until the end of June last year.

We saw over 60 people across the three sessions last weekend and it looks like being a busy summer for the RG Active coaches and myself personally with the numerous 1-2-1 coaching requests I have had already.

I wanted to write a quick post about the equipment you need to make the most of your open water swimming; especially if you are starting early when the water is ‘cold’… or ‘f#@king freezing’ if you don’t like cold water! haha

What equipment do you need to swim open water I hear you ask.


The most important thing for open water swimming is your wetsuit. I personally use a blueseventy Helix and Reaction which are the two top suits in the blueseventy range. The key with a wetsuit is get a ‘swimming specific’ wetsuit, then make sure you buy it from somewhere you can try it on and from someone who knows what they are talking about. If you get an ill-fitting wetsuit your open water swimming experience will not be a good one!

Points to remember when getting a swimming wetsuit:

– the weight and then height ;in that order; are the key measurements you need to get the fit correct.

– you need to be at the top end of the weight bracket on the size charts.

– the suit should be uncomfortably tight, almost restricting your breathing when dry.

– the shiny coated neoprene goes on the outside and the zip goes to the back!

If the suit is not fitted correctly and is not uncomfortably tight when dry, when you get int he water it will fill with too much water and not allow the suit to work as it needs to, it will make swimming harder, you will get cold and swimming will NOT be fun!


Most people have goggles that they already use in the swimming pool. If you have goggles that you like then stick with them for your first open water swim… ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t try and fix it’

If you do want to get some new goggles, or you want a more open water specific pair of goggles then this is what you need to look for:

– bigger eye piece thatfits on your face, not in your eye socket.

– a curved lens to offer you a wider field of vision.

– a lens colour that is suited to the outdoors conditions you will be swimming in (clear, yellow, dark, mirrored)

– you could be really flash and consider a photo-chromatic lens that adjusts to light conditions?

It is worth really doing some homework with goggles. Sometimes you will try 2 or 3 pairs of goggles before you find a pair you really like; so be prepared; it will be worth the time and investment in the end.

Other equipment:

Neoprene swimming cap – made from the same material as your wetsuit and designed to help keep you head warm.

Neoprene gloves – not allowed on race day, but when the water is cold they really help.

Neoprene socks – not allowed on race day, but when the water is cold they really help.

All of the above are designed to help keep your extremities warm. It will always be your hands, feet, head that get cold first. When these extremities get cold you usually last a few minutes before you’ll be getting out of the water, so all of these items will help you stay in the water longer and stay warmer.


The final thing and something you should not ever forget is lubricant.

If you don’t want to leave your open water swim session with horrible, very sore red marks around your neck, this will be the best £10-£15 you’ve ever spent. Available in roll-on, spray or cream form and you can buy from most triathlon and swimming retailers.

I have added some pictures to this post to give you an idea of some of the items I have spoken about above. If you would like to know more about wetsuits, open water swimming or anything else that relates to what I’ve written please contact me through the site or email the guys and girls at

Thank you for reading and remember to “try and try… until you get lucky!”

One thought on “Getting started… Open Water Swimming 2014

  1. Rachel Brittle says:

    Hi. I did my first open water swim ever at Stoke Newington on Saturday with Phil. he was a great coach, very encouraging and put me at my ease in the water allaying many of my fears. But it was the cold that was the worst bit! I shall be purchasing some of these accessories and have already booked more sessions later in the month!Thanks!

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