Open Water Swimming Technique
The best place to learn text book freestyle or crawl technique is in the pool. Open water swimming is much more than just simply following a line on the bottom which is why it is so exciting, whether you are just swimming for fitness or training for a triathlon or ironman the following tips may help you out in the open water.
The classic high elbow and relaxed forearm with a low hand position is the most efficient freestyle technique. In choppy open water it is often necessary to lift the forearm in order to avoid hitting waves. Ensure you keep your forearm as close to the body as possible throughout the recovery in this situation. Moving it too far away from the body will drastically reduce shoulder roll and your stroke length, this would result in far less efficient and effective swimming.
Sighting; It is important to sight often in open water swimming unless you are drafting and have confirmed the person you are following is heading in the right direction. When sighting I recommend lifting your head enough to confirm your direction, keep breathing to the side only. Lifting your head enough to breathe when sighting will lower your hips and break your rhythm, in short it slows you down.
If a swell is coming from one side breathe on the opposite side to avoid getting a mouthful of water.
If there is a large swell present accept that finding a satisfactory rhythm will be difficult. A reduction in stroke rate will help conserve energy. Try and feel or sense the dip between swells and if necessary use the stroke entry to slice into a wave and duck under it instead of swimming over the top.
Kicking; unless speed is required a relaxed two beat kick is far more efficient for endurance in the open water.
Keep your technique as close as possible to your pool swimming technique when swimming in open water. At the same time realise open water swimming is the time to use all your tricks, such as the ones I have mentioned above, to ensure efficient, comfortable and fast swimming.