COACH,  Top Tips,  Training and Technique

Open water skill: Superman buoy turns

Jonathan Cowie explains the fastest and most efficient way to turn around a buoy.

Even if you never want to enter a swimming event, learning how to turn quickly and efficiently around a buoy is a fun and useful skill to learn. If you do have swimming events planned, a well-executed buoy turn will not only give you a faster swim but also make you feel more confident and look really professional!

Buoy turns can be one of the most daunting parts of a swim event or triathlon. Like a mass start, they are feared for being like an aquatic rugby scrum as swimmers vie to get round the buoy as quickly as possible. 

In reality, if you are confident in your abilities you will find you are more likely to have clear water close to the buoy as so many swimmers give them a wide berth!

Activate your Superman arm

If you swim at a buoyed lake you can happily practice your turns around the buoys in situ, otherwise use a water-treading volunteer or a towfloat – or just practise turning in the water around an imaginary buoy. If you swim in a pool, practice turning at the end of the lane without touching the wall.

The superman buoy turn is so called because you lead with one arm – like Superman flying through the air. The lead arm keeps you balanced but also – importantly – acts as a rudder, steering you around the buoy. Having the lead arm out in front of you will also keep you in a good body position in the water. Your Superman arm is your arm closest to the buoy.

How to execute the perfect Superman turn

• Take an aggressive line direct to the buoy – you want to be as close as possible to the buoy when you turn.

• Sight as you swim towards the buoy. You need to swim as near to the buoy as possible – but you don’t want to swim past it.

• As you reach the buoy activate your superman arm!

• Take shorter, sharper strokes with your other arm. Use your superman arm to steer you around the buoy.

• Keep your body in a streamline position to make the turn as quick and efficient as possible.

• No need to breathe as you perform the turn. It should be a quick procedure.

• Once you are out of the turn, resume normal front crawl and sight to check you are on course.

For more top tips, training sessions and nutritional inspiration, head to our Swim Training page.