Many competent swimmers who have no difficulty swimming reasonable distances in the pool experience difficulty in the open water. But, whether the open water is smooth or rough, any difficulties are likely to be psychological. This is not to say that these difficulties are not real. They are real enough, but they tend to relate to issues of the mind, namely anxiety. Recognise that it is likely to be anxiety that prevents you from swimming in the open water and you are half-way there.
Anxiety-related issues related to OWS may include:
‘it’s a long way to swim’ (it’s probably no longer than one of your pool swims);
‘I can’t touch the bottom’ (no, but you can’t in the deep end of the pool either)
‘there is no wall to turn around on’ (that’s right, and it’s one of the great joys of OWS – you don’t have to turn around on a wall every 25 or 50 metres)
‘there is no black line to follow (another joy of OWS. See future issues for tips on ‘sighting’ to help you steer a straight(er) line)
‘I’m afraid of what’s down there; there are things that will eat me or at least sting me’ (if you heed the warnings contained in the article on sharks in this issue, your chances of being attacked by a shark are extremely rare. There will also be a future article on stingers. In any case, live a little on the wild side – the benefits are just wonderful!).
Hopefully, you will see that there is little rational argument for concerns about the open water whether it be the ocean, a lake or a river. Once you recognise that the major problem is anxiety, the trick is to relax, commune with nature and (as Dory said to Nemo) ‘just keep on swimming, that’s all you have to do’. Use OWS as a relaxation exercise, an exercise in developing patience (you just have to hang in there and eventually you will get to your destination); even as a meditation exercise and a sense of being at peace (more about that in later editions).