How to swim an ocean race - Juice Daily
Bondi lifeguard Andrew Reid in race mode.

How to swim an ocean race Tips from Bondi Lifeguard Andrew Reid

It’s the Cole Classic this weekend, which is a two km ocean swim in Manly – so we spoke to race ambassador and Bondi Lifeguard, Andrew Reid, to get his take on how best to swim the race. Or how best to swim in the ocean, generally, if you’re not particularly into races.

The perfect swimming stroke

“It depends on the ocean as it’s unpredictable and anything can happen on the day. It’s completely different to a pool because a pool is always going to be exactly the same conditions, so ocean swimming is a great challenge! There’s a lot more looking and listening because you’re always looking to make sure you’re going the right way. If it’s choppy, you’re trying to get over the top of the chop so you want to have a higher elbow in your stroke.”

The most important thing

“Look for the swim cans to head towards! You’d be surprised how many people swim a lot longer than the actual course because they veer off the wrong way. Sometimes they can add an extra 500 metres to their race! So that’s a big one.”

Follow the pack?

“If you’re a good swimmer you don’t have the convenience of following the pack. The number one thing to do is know the course, know how many cans there are, know which way it goes. If you’re a mediocre swimmer and you follow the pack, the danger is that the pack might go off course. There have been many ocean swims where I’ve gone to follow the pack and they’ve gone the wrong way!”


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The best start

“Conditions can play a big part – knowing where the rips are for example. The start might be 30 metres wide. if there’s a rip it can take you out a lot quicker than if you swim in where the waves are crashing on the shore.”

Pre-race prep

“My first tip is to warm up before a swimming race. This is crucial. Get in the water, have a 200 – 300 metre swim, do a couple of sprints. It allows you to settle in, gets the blood flowing and gives you a feel for the water so you get used to it. It makes a big difference.”

What if I panic?

“Sometimes people get freaked out if it’s their first swim, or even if it’s not. If you do panic, try to relax and just turn on your back and float. That’s the thing, you’re in the water, you can float. To prevent panicking, if it’s your first ocean swim, I recommend letting everyone else go before you and then take it at your own pace. If you want to get out of the water, there are plenty of safety boards around. Put your hand up and someone will come and help you. This can happen when there are wavy conditions, I’ve seen 50 to 100 get a board back to shore.”

Before the race

“Drink lots of water the day before. It’s important to hydrate especially if it’s going to be a warm day. A lot of the problems we incur usually come from dehydration. On the morning of the race, I’m a firm believer in that you don’t want to swim on a fully tummy. Eating a banana is ideal. Warm up. Check the conditions. Know the course.”

Pace yourself

“Try and go into the race as fresh as you can, don’t overtrain in the days before. My number one golden rule is take it out slow, finish strong.”


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Want to swim in the Cole Classic this year? Enter here.

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