What is Open Water Swimming?

Are you new to open water swimming? Have you always aspired to try doing open water swimming? You need the essential knowledge first before jumping in. Stay patient and this reading will help.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
– Aristotle

Introduction to Open Water Swimming

Swimming in the open is not like swimming in the regular public pools or condo private swimming pools managed by “people”. Swimming open is actually embraced by people that seek adventure, thrills or just bored with the routine like life swimming in a rectangular based swimming pool.

Define Open Water Swimming?

Beautiful places such as oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams are few of the good places on Earth to swim in when it comes to open water swimming. Unlike being confined in pools with sweet and salty waters controlled by the pool maintenance team, open water meant bouncing by the waves, massaged by the movement of your body through waves.

Swimming pools as we all know are safer with better hygiene. Water is cleaned and treated with chlorinations. Lanes are clearly marked with dividers to ensure safe swimming.

Nothing breaks the excitement like swimming in the open, however. Safety is crucial and important before taking the plunge into the open water.

Open Water Swimming VS Swimming Pools

Presence of lifeguards

Safety in swimming pools are usually guarded that are always on the lookout for your safety. However, swimming in foreign bodies like beaches, lakes, and oceans, lifeguards are usually not around.

Even if they are around, due to the constraints of distances. The safety of open swimmers will still be compromised, the time taken to reach swimmers will be much longer as compared to swimming in a closed, confined swimming pool.

Stay vigilant and up your swimming competency if you would like to join the outdoor swimming gang. It is extremely important to be mindful of yours and others’ safety when swimming in this “wild” water. Open water swimming is a high-risk sport.


The outdoor water is untamed and possesses many extreme environmental issues unimaginable unlike swimming in the pools. There are no walls and nothing like the lane ropes to help you rest, ocean and seawater comes with waves that are rougher and more challenging to swim against.

It takes certain swimmers to want to venture out in open water swimming, venturing away from the walls and entering into a word as different as the space. Before swimming outdoors, it helps a lot if you are a strong, competent swimmer who can evaluate risks and reach a certain level of competency before venturing into the surf, current and waves.

Making sure you have an intermediate level of competency such as knowing how to do threading water is essential for safety when engaging outdoor swim sessions. Proper equipment and “buddy systems swimming” need to be in place in case of any extreme conditions or emergency

In some cases, proper open water swimming lessons will help in the preparation.

Environment and Safety

Following up with the high-risk sport, lack of awareness in this open water swimming became very apparent to me on these 3 occasions.


I was once invited into Laguna beach at California for one early dip in the morning. The fog set in quickly and reduced the visibility of as much as 300 yards.

We swam for the next 100 yards and returned because fog was growing thicker and there might be chances of getting lost even near to shore.

However, there was another group of swimmers that went into the fog-filled open water despite considering all these factors that might happen?

  • Separated and disoriented
  • Amidst the fog, do you know how to get back to shore?
  • Did they realize they were completely invisible in the fog?
  • They could have been easily run over if the boaters and skiers?

This is one example of taking a failed responsibility to take care of own self and the safety of the group members.

Shore Break

A friend of mine who was just learning how to swim began taking his practice into the ocean swimming parallel outside the shoreline.

He had no prior practice and did not know that he needs to check the surf condition at the back too. There was a build-up of a huge wave, the surf break that suddenly causes him to toss around bringing him into the air and falling into the water like a basketball.

Tons of water crashed onto his body, he spun around trying to find some air to breathe but the white water that is filled with sand was holding him under.

Occasionally he used his core strength to try to fight against the wave and able to grasp some breath. The crashing and submerging seem like forever, eventually, he got up the shore with its core strength working against the backwash.

This shore break could have severely hurt him if not for his “core strength.”

Spatial Awareness

Another swimmer I saw was my uncle, in his mid-forties and swimming off a seal beach one day in California. He swam breathing from only the left side, the right side is totally oblivious or out of sight to him.

Spatial awareness was hindered and he has no ocean navigation of any sort. He was actually swimming right into an area filled with heavy boating traffic and putting himself in great danger.

Scenarios like these are common in the open water world, open water swimmers with experience or no experience need to read more before jumping into this rough water. Safety is still the most important in whatever sport we participate in.

Pulau Ubin Open Water, Safe or Not Safe?

Palau Ubin seems like a nice spot to do open water swimming with clear water. However tempting, I suggest not swimming in there as there are so many sea creatures and unforeseen objects that are thrown into this water. Swimming at these quarries is strictly prohibited or avoided at all times.

The water is also contaminated with toxic, industrial and hazardous pollutions.

However fascinating open water swimming is, safety is crucial when it comes to open water swimming. You need to be able to reach a certain level of competency to be able to do that “safely”.

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