FEATURES,  View from the Water

Seven types of open water swimmer

A few weeks back SwimSwam put out a light-hearted article about different types of swimmer. That prompted us to think about different types of open water swimmer. What type are you, and what have we missed? We look forward to hearing your suggestions.

1. The veteran long distance swimmer

This swimmer is a workhorse. She may have swum the English Channel but if not will be working towards it and will have done other long distance swims such as the length of Windermere. Weekends in the summer are spent in Dover Harbour or with some other swimming group and training sessions will often exceed four hours. Not necessarily fast (although some are) this swimmer is more likely to be dragged out of the water than get out voluntarily. Typically carrying a good layer of bioprene, this swimmer has never worn a wetsuit and never will.
Likes to say: nothing great is easy
Likes to eat or drink: as much as possible

2. The wetsuit speedster

Most likely this swimmer will have been a teenage county champion or national level swimmer. His preferred environment is the pool and he probably still trains in one several times a week, possibly with a masters swimming club. He has great technique and fitness but is a little fearful of open water and doesn’t like the cold and so will always wear a wetsuit. When he does swim outside he prefers a flat lake to a rough ocean. He does like winning though and is obsessed with his time, not realising that most open water swimmers don’t care.
Likes to say: what was your time?
Likes to eat or drink: anything he believes will make him swim faster

3. The injured triathlete

This is another wetsuit-loving, cold-fearing swimmer who will be more at home on land than in the water. Possibly extremely fit, this swimmer will be frustrated by less athletic people leaving her behind in the water. She would prefer to be running or cycling but is currently (and frequently) carrying an injury of some kind and so, reluctantly, is spending more time than she wants swimming. She will have a very full kitbag.
Likes to say: how do you swim so fast?
Likes to eat or drink: energy gels or drinks

4. The cold water nutter

The cold water nutter wears shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops throughout the year and always drives with the windows open. Water temperatures above 15 degrees are intolerably warm for this swimmer and he describes water between 10 and 15 degrees as balmy. Although rarely fast, this swimmer is admired for his dogged persistence and imperviousness to the cold.
Likes to say: come in, the water’s lovely.
Likes to eat: steak

5. The born free swimmer

This swimmer will never be constrained by walls or rules. She loves the freedom of open water and will be little concerned whether swimming is permitted or not. Will meet other swimmers in car parks and lay-bys for secret dips. She carries a costume wherever she goes but considers its use optional. A wetsuit is a dull necessity for colder months, to be discarded at the earliest opportunity.

Likes to say: swim first, ask later
Likes to eat or drink: organic carrot cake and red wine

6. The surprisingly fast large person

This swimmer will be the most un-athletic looking person on the beach. He will probably be eating a giant sandwich and drinking a coffee before his swim and doesn’t have any worries about stomach cramps or any other dire consequences that are supposed to befall swimmers if they eat within two hours of entering the water. He will watch others limbering up with an air of detached bewilderment. When you finish your swim, he will already be dressed and munching his way through a pie, having come flying past you effortlessly sometime shortly after the start of the swim.

Likes to say: what kept you?
Likes to eat or drink: everything

7. The fiercely determined swimmer

This swimmer impresses with her determination. She may be nervous, even fearful of open water (at least initially), and perhaps has limited swimming experience, but she sets herself staggeringly ambitious swimming goals compared to her current ability – and then goes out and achieves them regardless of how long it takes, and that refers both to the training and to the swim itself. She may be recovering from a serious illness or personal setback.
Likes to say: not much – actions speak louder than words
Likes to eat: whatever necessary to achieve her goals.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.