2017 SwimBC Open Water Camp

SwimBC was very pleased with the outcome of its first-ever Open Water Training Camp, held June 23-25, 2017, in Kelowna.  Joining SwimBC Regional / Open Water Coach, Pete Wilkins, and Provincial Performance Director, Mike Flegel, was Swimming Canada’s Distance / Open Water Coach, Mark Perry.  Also part of the camp as SwimBC apprentice coach was Malwina Bukszowana (WGB), who herself used to compete internationally in Open Water races.

With the large amount of spring run-off and recent flooding in the Kelowna area, the water was still at least 60cm higher than normal, which also resulted in the water being a couple degrees cooler than normal.  Therefore, almost all of the swimmers wore wetsuits (now FINA-mandated for races where water temperature is below 18C).

In addition to four sessions in Okanagan Lake (each of which saw the swimmers going at least 5km), we had one long-course session in the pool - 15 swimmers.

Probably the biggest eye-opener for the swimmers was the fact that open-water racing isn’t just a “go for a long swim” solo endeavour, but rather, is a very tactical event with lots of swimming in close quarters, being in almost-constant physical contact with one or more swimmers, and there is the necessity for some serious speed.


  • Kara Wismer, Anna Dumont-Belanger, Myles Wheeler (SPART)
  • Alex Woinoski, Sophia Brunoro, Isabella Brunoro (SFA)
  • Chantel Jeffrey, Ethan Skofteby (CSSSC)
  • Rennes Lindsay (WGB)
  • Hau-Li Fan (UBCD)
  • Charlie Ford (RAPID)
  • Axana Merckx (KAJ)
  • Acacia Benn, Haley Berrisford, Ashley McMillan (KISU)

Technical Notes:


  • Take shortest line (inside of course)
  • Race starts fast - be prepared for it - lots of evidence to suggest that if you’re not in the Top10 for the entire race, you’re not in the medals
  • Stay aware - know where your competition is


  • Make contact with buoy - inside line
  • Be prepared for contact
  • maintain position


  • Never lead - leading is for losers
  • You gotta be able to swim - swim well, swim fast
    • World best OW swimmers: <15:30 (men); <8:40 (women)
    • Be versatile - ability to swim 200 Fly / 400 IM worthwhile
  • Conserve as much energy as possible while maintaining position
  • Stay in Top10
  • Sighting
    • Start with sighting every 10th stroke - maybe you can get away with more often, most will probably be more frequently (every 4-6)


  • Draft as much as the race as possible (see above - leading is for losers)
  • Stay in sweet spot - no more than arms length behind feet in front (0cm - 50cm behind)
  • Ideally, have people to your left and right as well - be comfortable in that crowd


  • Not always necessary - try to train and prepare yourself so you can last the race without nutrition
  • Watch for low-hanging feed poles
  • Take bottle with inside arm (closest to pole) and role away from it to take feed on back


  • Sight so you know the finish line and don’t get rubbed out into a rope or buoy
  • If possible, rub people out on marker buoy, or angle across them to cut off their line into the finish
    • To avoid / get out of that situation if someone is doing it to you, do the back-roll over their legs

Open Water Racing Turn Practice

More videos from the camp available here.

And finally, our sincere thanks to Santi Morales (who you might know from Team Aquatic Supplies), who served as our Team Manager on this camp, keeping the swimmers fed, the coaches coffee’d, and details organized ahead of our arrivals.