Go Swim’s Top Tips for taking the plunge into your first Open Water Swimming Event

First time at a swimming event? Here’s what to expect and our top tips for making it all go smoothly…

Pre-Race Preparation

  • There’s no substitute for following your training for the swim! It will give you the confidence you need to tackle the event day swim. Inevitably life will get in the way of your training so don’t panic if you don’t hit every single training session. Try to stay consistent though and you will reap the rewards of both your swim fitness and your confidence in your swimming ability.
  • Try to swim in different conditions (within safety limits). If you only train in good calm weather and race day turns out to be windy with choppy water, then this will dent your confidence. The best advice we had here at Go Swim was to simply go in rougher water or jump around in the waves of the sea to get used to the elements. You will then know what you can cope with and the conditions on race day are less likely to faze you. Always swim with a buddy especially in these circumstances.
  • Read the Race Day instructions carefully as soon as you get them. Make sure you are happy with all the instructions and that you have all the necessary kit.

Race Day!

  • Make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to travel to the event and allow a little extra for contingencies such as roadworks, getting lost and traffic jams. This will allow you to arrive at the event calm and ready to go (well, in theory!)
  • It is a little bit of a luxury to have spares of everything, but you can at least have spare ear plugs and nose clip (if you use them) and perhaps spare goggles. You could have a plain pair and tinted pair of goggles for the different weather conditions (it is occasionally sunny in Scotland!) and this would work as your spare pair. You never know if your goggles might snap, or if you lose your nose clip on event morning.
  • Make yourself a list of everything you need and make sure your swimming costume is in your bag.
  • Don’t forget your body glide! Apply liberally to your neck and shoulders to help your wetsuit move over these areas and prevent any chafing.
  • Have you got your tow float with you? At Go Swim, these are only compulsory if you are swimming without a wetsuit. You can swim with one if you like, though. Some people like them for taking rests during a longer swim.
  • If you are not sure about anything or maybe have some special needs, then ask our friendly event marshals, they will do their best to help you.
  • Our race starts in small waves of swimmers, so you won’t be faced with a melee of arms and legs as you set off. If you are at all unsure, simply position yourself towards the back of the wave and set off at your own pace.

During the Swim

  • One of the reasons that people sign up to events is for the safety element of an organised swim. There will be a specialist water safety team there on the day who will be assisted by local kayakers. The kayakers are there to help you and look after your safety.
  • If you do feel that you need assistance during a swim, just roll over onto your back and a kayaker will come over and check that you are ok. Sometimes you just need to catch your breath and a quick minute or two gently holding onto the kayak can be all you need to get going again. Please listen to the instructions from the kayaker so that you do not capsize him or her!
  • It’s best to look up and sight fairly often during an event to make sure that you don’t go off course too much. The friendly kayakers will often come to your aid and guide you back on course! But you don’t want to expend too much energy swimming extra and it’s nice to enjoy the stunning views.

After the Swim

  • Our swims at Loch Tay and Loch Lomond have the entry and exit points on slipways so these are relatively easy to get out of. Loch Morlich is on a sandy beach so it’s nice and easy there too. However, take your time coming out of the water. You can often feel a bit dizzy going to a vertical position after swimming horizontally for a while. The cold water can also make you feel dizzy which is why some people wear ear plugs while swimming.
  • Once you have stood up, smile, as we will have our photographer there!
  • Collect your medal and bask in the accomplishment of having achieved your swimming goals.
  • If you are raising money for charity, make sure that you post about your swim to increase your donations. You’re even more amazing!
  • It’s not an essential step, but we would be willing to bet that once you get home, you start looking for more swimming events to enter!


If you want to know more about our swims, then you can watch our webinar with Simon Griffiths of Outdoor Swimmer on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klyvEF5f3BI&t=18s

There’s lots of useful information and advice on the Outdoor Swimmer magazine website including this article about how a swimming event can boost your confidence: https://outdoorswimmer.com/featured/boost-your-outdoor-swimming-confidence-by-doing-an-event/

We look forward to seeing you on the start line!