Jerry Seinfeld once joked that he couldn’t believe the work people did to get into the ocean.
“They’ll fight the traffic and the heat and the parking and the hot sand, trying to get through the waves; and the ironic thing is, the ocean doesn’t even really want us in there,” he leads the joke off with.
And, whilst in the original he referred to surfing, it works just as well for ocean swimming, so I’ve switched them for effect.
“That’s what’s ocean swimming is. Ocean swimming is the ocean throwing us out of itself.
“You see? We keep trying to swim in. And the ocean is saying, “No, you don’t.”
“The ocean is like a nightclub, and the waves are bouncers tossing us out.”
As an avid Seinfeld fan, I remember this joke every time I teach swimmers to negotiate the surf.
When trying to swim out through the waves, it can feel like they’re wanting to throw you back onto shore.
Wave after wave of relentless attack by the bouncers of the ocean can wear down even the strongest of swimmers.
So, how do you give yourself the best chance of getting past these big burly doormen and making it out the back where the party is?
Think of it like trying to sneak into a bar when you’re a little too tipsy.
If you go bounding up to the bouncer with your chest out and bloodshot eyes on display, you’re going to be read like a book and you’ll be back on your butt in no time. No matter how many times you go back like that, you’ll be knocked back.
But, if you quietly cruise up to the line, keep your head down and don’t offer anything to be caught out on, you’re going to sneak past.
When it comes to negotiating the surf, that means if you approach a wave in an upright position; maybe your head is up too high and your legs are dragging, or you’ve dived under the water too late and are head down bum up, or you’ve hesitated at the last minute and slipped into a breaststroke position, the wave will take hold of all the body surface it can and push back.
To you, this will feel like you’ve been brought to a standstill or sent into a tumble. Either way, you won’t be progressing through the surf zone.
To negotiate waves efficiently, you need to approach waves in a streamlined body position, offering up the least amount of body surface to the oncoming wave.
A streamlined body position is horizontal, with hands stretched out in front and head tucked between shoulders.
If you’re diving under waves, this will mean starting your dive early so you can slope down and rise up on gradual gradients, or if you’re remaining on the water surface, you can adopt the ‘superman’ technique (my best tip for surf swimming).
Staying streamlined when swimming in the waves will transform your surf swimming.
Develop the confidence to keep your head down and let the waves wash over your streamlined body, you’ll be surprised how little effect the waves will have on your momentum and how easy it is to get swimming again and progress faster through the surf zone.
Book into an OceanFit Learn To Ocean Swim clinic to familiarise yourself with the basics of ocean swimming with an abundance of tips & techniques.