Three Things You Need to Know About Open Water Ocean Swimming

I really prefer swimming in a swimming pool. No critters. No conveyor belt currents to the next continent. Never too far from any shore. But when I go to a beach and see beautiful water that looks relatively calm and clear, I usually decide to swim in it.

Three Things You Need to Know About Open Water Ocean Swimming

Things that set up the swim the right way

That is what happened in Cozumel at the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort. I looked out from the 7th floor veranda and know I was ready to try that section of ocean. It helped that:

  • there were 2 piers defining an area
  • the winds and waves were fairly calm the first time I swam there
  • I had explored some of the underwater terrain while snorkeling
  • quite a few people were seen snorkeling there and I didn’t see any pulled under by sea creatures
  • there were buoys marking outer limits
  • one particular buoy was extra large and easy to spot while swimming toward it
  • I had a strong swimming partner traveling with us
  • swimming in my Fastlane current generator has conditioned me for moving water and extended swim time without lap ends

Thus, early the next morning, I donned my favorite active bikini of 2016 and headed for the ocean before breakfast. My husband and my girl friend (wife of my swimming partner) were there as visual lifeguards on the shore. I confirmed with my swimming partner that it was not a race and we set off.

The first swim

Our estimate, based on measurements on Google Earth, was that 2 round trip laps were just under half a mile. The first swim, we only paused at the buoy long enough to touch it and say we were doing okay. I felt a little panicky in the deeper water at this farthest point, but all the training to swim with relaxed form and breathing paid off. I never got out of breath.

The second swim

Two days later, I completed one round trip lap before my swimming partner joined me, but again with my husband watching from shore. The water was a bit choppier and I felt more tired after the total distance. Still, another benefit of swimming in the moving water of the Fastlane was that I had very little trouble adjusting my head to breathe adequately. I still was not out of breath.

The third swim

My third swim was much more tiring due to large rocking waves that knocked my about. I struggled for any progress in the desired direction, even when I was swimming with the current. I took a few seconds more at the buoy, but being uncomfortable in the deep water, I headed back as soon as I felt I was able.

Three things you should know about ocean open water swimming

Three things that I knew about ocean swimming were even more deeply impressed on me from my experience here.

1. There are a lot of creatures living out in the ocean. We all know this, but it is good to think specifically about it when entering the water. It can be unnerving to have things swim up and touch you. In this location, I was stung lightly by jelly fish a few times. The sensation was like multiple pin pricks and faded after a couple minutes, but I know there are more troublesome jelly fish out there.

The fish that were used to being fed by the snorkelers tended to swarm around me in spots. Some of those fish were large enough to be creepy. There were lion fish around, mostly lurking in nooks and crannies, but my husband ended up too close for comfort to one while snorkeling. We saw the occasional barracuda, but none bothered us.

2. The ocean waves are unpredictable. No one knows for sure how violent they will be on any given day, thus it is basically impossible to plan a nice relaxed swim for a race or triathlon. It would be very difficult to swim in rough waves WITH other people thrashing around you in a race. If my third swim had been my first swim experience, I doubt I would have gone swimming there again, even with just me there.

3. Ocean currents are invisible threats. They can work for you or against you. It is important to learn what currents there are where you intend to swim. I had never gone swimming in such a distinctive current before. We were warned about this current just off shore from the resort. If a swimmer or snorkeler wasn’t paying attention, they might drift off to the middle of the ocean before they knew what had happened.

As it was, we were able to use the current to our advantage. We planned our swim so that we swam out against the edge of it, then back in with the edge of it, but we stayed away from the end of the northernmost pier, where it was known to be extra strong. Some of the snorkelers used the more moderate sections of the current by walking south down the shoreline, then catching the current back to the hotel.

My husband has requested that I wear something other than blue next time I am swimming in the ocean, so it is easier to spot me. At least a brighter swim cap!

Deciding to swim anywhere in the ocean

Given relatively calm conditions, I would go for an extended swim there in Cozumel again, or in any part of the ocean that I had learned enough about and/or had gotten to know a bit. I don’t think I will ever be as comfortable with being in wild waters as some people, but I expect the opportunity will always draw me in. Sometimes we have to take chances to enjoy life.

Here is a video of the area and some of the swimming: