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Sighting Tips for Open Water Swimming

Swimming in the correct direction during open water can be a challenge for most athletes. This is why learning the proper technique for sighting in open water is crucial during training. Here are a few tips for sighting that can help when you line up for your next event.

Plan Ahead

Look for buoys or landmarks to help you sight while on the swim course

Print out the swim course map and go to the swim start to look for landmarks to use while sighting. Ideally, you want to survey the area at the same time when the swim will occur. This will give you an idea of where the sun is hitting the swim course and if the glare will be an issue. 

Look for landmarks in the distance that are distinctive and easy to spot. Things like buildings, peaks of trees, or dips in the tree lines are great for spotting. Buoys can be hard to spot during the swim, and especially if you are slightly turned in the wrong direction, the significant landmarks provide an excellent alternative for sighting.

Come Up With a Game Plan

If the swim course runs parallel to the shores, use the shores to gauge if you are swimming in the correct direction. Look back towards the shore when you are taking a breath on your side while you are swimming. Also, use other swimmers to help you gauge if you are swimming in the correct direction. If you were swimming with a pack and suddenly found yourself swimming alone, popup and sight for landmarks or buoys to check if you are swimming in the right direction. 

Prep Your Gear

Keep your goggles clean and apply your favorite anti-fog spray inside the goggles before the event. A good, clean pair of tri goggles will allow you to see better and further down the swim course to spot the swim buoys and landmarks.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Tips for Sighting in Open Water

Here are some tips from seasoned triathlete and High Five Events‘ Operations Manager, John Chung. “Practice swimming with your head up in the pool. Use the cool down set for practice, and establish a rhythm for when to take a stroke for sighting. I like to swim two normal stokes and a sight stroke, pull, pull, sight. To get your head elevated slightly above water, push down instead of pulling through during the catch. 

On your next open water swim practice, figure out which way you naturally curve to when you swim. For example, I tend to swim to my right, so if the buoys are on my left on a counter-clockwise swim course, I tend to swim away from the course. So for me, I need to look for buoys to my left when I sight during the swim. Sight 2 to 3 times to correct the direction in which you are swimming. First, locate the buoy or landmark you’ll use. Second, adjust your swimming direction to get back on course. Third, continue to sight as often as needed to make sure you are swimming towards the buoy or landmark.” 

Make it a point to practice sighting during the cool-down portion of your swim sessions to have this skill mastered for your next event! Happy swimming!

At Kerrville Tri, your safety is our top priority. Here are a few of the precautions we take to make sure our swim course is as safe as possible

Time Trial Start

The time trial start consists of starting one person at a time at approximately 2-second intervals.  Participants will start with their assigned wave (eg. Intermediate, Men 40 & Over), and will line up within their wave on a first-come basis. We know open water swim courses can be intimidating, so we use this method to give the participants their own space in the water.  Before each race morning, we also clear any debris there may be on the swim course to ensure you don’t run into anything unexpected during your swim portion.

Bright colored swim caps are used to make you more visible in the water

Participants lining up with their age group, ready to dive in!

Swim Caps

We provide swim caps to our participants according to your age group upon registration. These are the typical swim caps you would use. They are used during Kerrville Tri to keep you safe and distinguish the participants according to age group. Per USAT rules, the swim caps are always brightly colored to allow the lifeguards, and other participants, to see you throughout the swim course.

Buoys

It can be easy to become disoriented during an open water swim, especially if you’re new to the sport. You can always count on large, brightly colored buoys as markers to keep you safe and on track during the swim course. The buoys are there to help you stay on course, and make you feel more comfortable in the water. Utilize the buoys by thinking of the course in segments and swim in straight lines from buoy to buoy.

Participants swimming along the buoys in Nimitz Lake

Participants swimming along the buoys in Nimitz Lake

Lifeguards

If for any reason you should need help during the swim portion, we have kayaks with lifeguards posted throughout the swim course. To make sure our participants feel safe, we have 10 lifeguards on Saturday and 20 lifeguards on Sunday. Most of the guards will be on kayaks, while some will be onshore in case of emergency. Knowing the lifeguards are out there will make you feel safe and extra secure when taking on the Smokin’ Good Tri swim course.

Jet Skis

There are also jet skis in the water should anyone need aid quickly during the swim portion. With the lifeguards on kyaks stationed throughout the course and jet skis on standby, we have hopefully omitted anything that would cause you to feel unsafe during your swim portion. Pro tip: If you’re in the area before the tri, get out to Nimitz Lake to do a mock-swim!

With all these various measures taken to keep our swimmers safe, there shouldn’t be anything preventing you from wanting to participate in Kerrville Tri! Now the only thing left for you to do is get to training, and decide which suit you should wear on race day.