Triathletes spend hours in the pool practicing perfect stroke technique, but on race day, following buoys and staying on course is equally important. Sighting is a skill that needs to be practiced and perfected before race day. Follow these tips for your next open-water swim.
1. Lift your head only as high as necessary. In calm bodies of water, like a lake or river, lift just your eyes out of the water.
2. In wavy ocean conditions, time it so you’re sighting on the top of a wave for the best view of the course. Feel your body rise and fall on the swells and sight accordingly.
3. When conditions are choppy and unpredictable, lift your head extra high but try to minimize the total number of times you sight. Use landmarks and other swimmers when breathing to the side.
4. Do not breathe while looking forward. Separate the two actions by sighting forward and then immediately rolling your head to take a breath to the side.
5. As you prepare to sight, press down with your hand and arm during the catch phase of your stroke. This will slightly lift your upper body and make it easier to raise your head.
6. Arch your back while lifting your head. This will allow your legs and feet to stay near the surface, minimizing drag under the water.
7. Kick extra hard for a moment while you are sighting. This will help maintain forward speed and also keep your feet from dropping.
8. Sight 2–3 times in a row (during every other stroke). Use the first sight to locate the buoy, the second sight to adjust your angle and the third to verify your direction. Swim straight for 20–30 seconds before repeating this system.
9. Practice, practice, practice! Make a point to practice sighting drills in every second or third workout.
Sighting drills for the pool
Tarzan: Swim the entire length of the pool with your head out of the water. Use this drill to practice arching your back, kicking extra hard and maintaining a good body position.
Where’s Waldo?: Use good sighting technique to locate your coach on the pool deck while swimming a single lap.
3 Right/3 Left/6 Regular: Sight three times while taking a stroke with the right arm and then three times with the left. Take six regular strokes and then repeat.
Swim Blind: Find an empty lane at the pool and swim straight down the middle with your eyes closed. Based on which lane line you bump most often, you know which direction to compensate for in open water.