Swimming straight is so important. if you think about it, I might be a slower swimmer than, well, a whole lot of people, but if I can manage to swim in a straight line in a race I give myself a pretty major tactical advantage. I swim less distance and expend less effort.

I loved this video from Swim Smooth (Here’s the full article.):

Such an interesting look at how bad we all innately are at swimming in a straight line. Also a good lesson for anyone who only does pool training to compete in races that don’t have the ever-present black line to show the way.

In some races it’s easier to swim in a straight line than others. There is a long list of things that might make it difficult:

  1. Conditions. It’s harder to see the marker buoys when the waves are bigger.
  2. The course. Some races have interesting courses. The Cole Classic (most years) starts at Shelley Beach (which is at right angles to the finish line at Manly), then you swim across the bay, and pull a hard right out around the point into open ocean to pull a left at a buoy you couldn’t even see from the start line. And check out the course from last year’s Tamarama to Clovelly swim. Trust me, it was a looooooooong way between the 2nd and 3rd buoys…all the way along that cliff face!
  3. Non-Symmetrical swimming technique. As the swim smooth video points out, bilateral breathing is a good start on this. Technique training should also help. My personal observation is that it’s good to be able to be a bit flexible with these things…adjust for different techniques with different breathing patterns.
  4. Other swimmers (part 1). Depending on the layout of the wave starts, especially if you’re not a fast swimmer, you can spend a lot of time with other swimmers overtaking you. Your choice about getting out of the way, fighting them off or trying to jump on their bubbles for a draft, but regardless, it always has the potential to make you lose focus and drift off course.
  5. Other swimmers (part 2). As you can see in the previous points, it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself are little lost out there, where you haven’t seen a buoy in a while and you’re not really sure if you are swimming straight or not. There are swimmers in front of you, possibly even stretching out in a line. Aha! You’ve found the right way to go! Crowdsourcing is the way of the future, right? BZZZ Wrong! Those swimmers in front of you have been swimming in e same conditions you have. The same course, the same wave height. What makes you think they know where they’re going any more than you do? You should always plot your own course. Always. Pretty much no exceptions. The only thing worse than swimming off course, is swimming off course because you followed the random stranger in front of you.

Wow. Sounds impossible, right? But never fear, there are definitely some things you can do to improve your ability to swim the elusive straight line around the course to the finish.

How? Well I think that probably requires a whole post of its own. So step one is to watch this space. 🙂