Outdoor Swimmers: How do you avoid Lake Rage?

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Most people who swim regularly in a public pool will probably have come across Lane Rage at some point. This typically occurs when people with different priorities and approaches to swimming try to share the same lane and fail to accommodate or adjust to each other’s needs. This is sometimes because they are simply oblivious and lack awareness or is sometimes through deliberate passive-aggressive behaviour or even outright aggression to assert what they believe is their right. Acting entitled in a pool usually goes down badly. I’ve seen situations erupt into verbal abuse and come close to physical abuse.

But surely it’s different outdoors? With so much extra space, along with the calming and mood-enhancing benefits of cool water, how can tempers get frayed? Can Lake Rage even exist?

While it’s true that I’ve never seen the levels of frustration at a lake that match those I’ve encountered in a pool, I have observed behaviours that could have provoked it. I’ve heard grumblings too, from swimmers who have felt intimidated or harassed. So, the potential is there.

I also think it can be easily avoided, and that the responsibility lies primarily with faster and more experienced swimmers.

Swimming at commercial venues in lakes in the UK is often organised around a circuit. There is a historical reason for this: swimming lakes originally primarily catered for triathletes and the setup replicated what they might find in races. It’s also easier to manage from a safety point of view, avoids collisions between swimmers, and many swimmers appreciate the measured courses so they know how far they’ve swum.

Venues may have their own guidelines for how swimmers swim on these circuits. If they do, those obviously take precedence over anything I suggest below. But in their absence, I recommend the following:

  • Before starting, spend a few minutes watching people already swimming, and make sure you know exactly how to follow the course.
  • If you need to stop for any reason, it’s usually best to move slightly inside or outside the course so people don’t need to swim around you. Also, turn around to face the oncoming swimmers so you can see them approach and move aside if necessary.
  • When overtaking, leave at least a 1m space between yourself and the person you’re passing, including around turn buoys, even if you’re doing a timed swim.
  • If you are a splashy swimmer, give even more space.
  • If you are using paddles or fins, give even more space.
  • When overtaking a group of swimmers, try to go around all of them rather than through the middle.
  • Tone down your leg kick when overtaking.
  • Use a tow float so that other swimmers can see you more easily and therefore give you space.
  • If you are swimming in a pack, be especially considerate when passing other swimmers and do not disrupt their swim in any way.
  • Practise sighting and swimming straight as this will reduce your risk of collisions.
  • If you are a strong and experienced swimmer, use your skills to enhance other people’s experience.
  • Be kind and supportive. The lake is for everyone, every ability, every stroke and every type of swimming.

Remember, it could be someone’s first outdoor swim. Help them have a positive experience so that they come back for more. Keep in mind too that some people are less comfortable than others in open water. Being kicked, swum over or splashed might not bother you but it could be a big deal to them. I know it happens in triathlon and in some mass-start swim events but there’s no place for it on a leisure swim.

Images: © Katia Vastiau

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01 Cover May22 Low Res

Issue 61 May 2022

  • New faces in open water swimming
  • Swimming for Ukraine
  • Explore: London, Copenhagen and Bristol & Bath
  • Yoga for swimmers
  • Understanding the pool clock
  • On Test: Entry-level wetsuits

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