Swimming Etiquette

As in most races, at the start people aggressively swim over you, smack you and ram into you.  I get claustrophobic and I can’t breathe. At times it has even felt like I am drowning – but I can accept that this just happens at the beginning of every race.  After 10-15 minutes everyone will usually have spread out into the expansive sea.

What I cannot accept is someone who is drags off of me and continues to smack my feet 20 minutes into the race. Actually, I don’t care if someone drags off of me, I don’t enter these races to win, I enter them for open water experience. But if you drag off of me, it is completely unacceptable to smack my feet at every stroke. At the Tuna Balfego race last weekend Susan, Mauricio and I actually stopped two times to let the feet smackers pass us.  The norm would be that these people swim around us, as the sea is big enough for everyone.  But when we let them pass they couldn’t keep up our pace.  They needed to drag off of us to go at our speed so we found them again and again smacking our legs until we sprinted away from them.

In the pool I have found some other frustrating behaviors and believe some people need reminding about the unwritten rules of passing and feet touching.  When I swam in high school and university, this was never a problem, but with my open water training in Barcelona, there are too many adult swimmers who just don’t know what they are doing. So here are a few suggestions to follow if you didn’t grow up on a swim team;

1)   The lead swimmer sets the pace. Don’t piss off the lead swimmer, their job is hard and you probably cannot perform it.

2)   If you dare to touch the lead swimmers’ feet – apologize immediately.

3)   If you intentionally touch the lead swimmers’ feet, be prepared to go first during the rest of the practice. Also be prepared to swim faster than you were swimming, as it is much harder to lead than to swim in the wake of a leader.

4)   There is no rotating positions throughout the set. The order of the lane should stay the same during the entire practice.  The purpose of the practice is for you to swim consistently at the pace the set calls for.  I have actually had an idiot pass me during a drill set. Who does that? A drill is a technique set, not a speed set.

5)   Passing is ballsy. If you pass, you need to stay far ahead of the person that you have passed throughout the entire practice. It doesn’t count to pass for one set, then go back to the back of the lane and swim slowly and recover while everyone else continues to push through the set.  That makes no sense for your training and you will not get any faster swimming this way.

6)   There are also rules to letting people pass. If you are lapping the slowest person in the lane, you gently touch their feet and then pass them on the next turn.  The person being passed needs to know how to get out of the way.  If they cannot respect the faster swimmer, they need to get out of the lane.

Before my next event, I am going to practice swimming forward and karate kicking behind me because as passive a person I am, there is nothing more aggravating than people swimming on top of you who are not faster than you.

In a pool, the rules of respect are clear, in the open water, there is space for everyone.

Categories: Open Water, Races, Training

6 replies

  1. Em, check out these swimming etiquette posts by Loneswimmer: http://loneswimmer.com/tag/lane-swimming-etiquette/. I found it while searching on Google for a relevant image to accompany this post.


  1. Swimming Etiquette | Wanaka Lake Swimmers
  2. Should slow swimmers have the right of way in lane swimming? Really? | LoneSwimmer
  3. Should you be in the fast lane? | LoneSwimmer
  4. HOW TO: Lane swimming etiquette | LoneSwimmer
  5. Etiquette: Lap swimming is not Masters swimming | Open Water Swimming

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