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The finish is right behind you

On Sunday I stood under the OceanFit marquee for nearly 6-hours watching over 3,000 swimmers complete their 1km, 2km or 5km journeys at the Cole Classic.

I love seeing the joy on people’s faces as they complete their swim and achieve their goal, no matter how big or small, and it was great to see dozens of OceanFit’ers past and present enjoying their new ocean swimming lifestyles.

The perfectionist in me wasn’t overly impressed though.

The conditions were perfect, but the finishes were messy.

In the excitement of nearing the end, and no doubt running on empty, swimmers were giving up early, trudging through deep water, and fighting the waves, instead of working with the ocean right up to the sand.

With one hand prematurely on their finishes medal, swimmers only had eyes for the shore, when their focus should have been behind them.

The Hawaiians say “never turn your back on the ocean’, and that advice rings true for finishing ocean swims.

From the moment you begin to enter the wave zone, you need to be checking back behind you regularly using the backward sighting and backstroke sighting techniques, and you should continue doing so all the way to the shore.

If you know what’s coming, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to “work’ the swell (increasing your effort as the swell lifts you up and surges you forward), and, you’ll be able to get in the right place at the right time, to body surf a wave back to shore.

Don’t like the look of an approaching wave? If you can see it coming, you can take action to dive under it, and in doing so, you’ll remain in control.

Whether you catch a wave or not, you shouldn’t stop swimming until you can reach down and touch the sand through the pull phase of your stroke. Can’t touch the sand? Take a few more strokes and try again.

Only when you can touch the sand, should you stand up (looking behind as you do), this will mean the water level is somewhere between your knees and your waist – the perfect depth to dolphin dive, or push off and body surf a broken wave to the sand to the applause of the crowd.

Andre Slade

Andre is the owner of OceanFit with over 20 years in the swimming education, lifeguarding and coastal safety industry.

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