Wednesday, May 23, 2007


My first open water swimming experience was with an LA Tri Club sponsored clinic called Ocean 101. The clinic was hosted by two really great guys, Tim Bomba and Steve Herbert, and they still do it every week for club members who want to become comfortable with swimming in the ocean. For me though, I was never uncomfortable with the ocean. It didn't scare me. Mostly, I think this was because I had never been in the ocean much in my entire life. I never surfed, and when my family went to the beach we mostly stayed out of the water because it was just too cold. But I had certainly heard the concerns of others and figured I would play it safe and learn something before just diving in.

And learn I did. The most important thing I learned that day, and something everyone who wants to swim in the ocean should know, is how to deal with crashing waves. Waves have tremendous power and large waves can be quite intimidating. If you screw up you can really get messed up bad.

So how do you deal with waves? You duck. The wave is caused by the collision of the surface water coming on to shore and the water from the previous wave that is receding back from shore. This collision causes the water to well up into a wall and then finally crash down as the wall of water tips over. The majority of all this movement is happening at the surface. Down below, just above the ground the water is calm. So have to time the wave, and just before it crashes, dive down to that calm water, slowly count to five and then resurface. If you have skills, you can do the dolphin kick and even make some good progress while you are down there. The counting is critical. If you surface too fast you will come up right into the torrent above you. If you come up too slowly, you may come up while the next wave is crashing.

So it is not so hard, but what about on the way back to shore. Here you have to really careful because if you don't pay attention to what is behind you, a wave can crash right over you. Today I was swimming back to shore and as I got closer I kept looking back to see any waves that might be coming. Then I saw a big one. If the wave is going to crest past you then you can try to ride it in. If the wave crests before you then watch out! I saw it starting to crest, and I had to think of what to do. I thought I was far enough behind me that I would catch the remnants and that it wouldn't be two bad, so I didn't duck. I thought I could ride it out, but instead, I got hit hard. I remained calm, and luckily I wasn't thrown against anything, so I wasn't hurt at all. But I did loose my swim goggles, and I damaged my pride. So my swim ended a little earlier than planned, and I went for a run. Hey, I needed new goggles anyways!

Tip: You can prevent the loss of you goggles by putting your swim cap on after your goggles. The cap helps to keep the straps in place and will prevent their loss if you get hit wave, or by another swimmer.

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