Open-water swimming gear essentials

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Open-water swimming is one of the cottage’s greatest pleasures—there’s something so pleasurable about embracing nature and exercising on a serene lake or a beautiful beach. While it’s tempting to take a completely minimalist approach to the sport—slap on a swimsuit, hop in the water, and take off—there’s actually a lot to consider before you get going.

It can be tricky to figure out what gear you should purchase and what safety measures you should take before you go. So, to help open up the world of open-water swimming, we spoke with Masters swimmer Lynn Marshall for some guidance. Marshall has broken countless world swimming records, earned accolades in indoor and open-water swimming events, and is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Open-water swimming offers a sense of freedom that you typically don’t get in a pool, says Marshall. “You feel the sun on your back and it can be quite relaxing,” she says. “It’s just that feeling of you and the wild outdoors”

Before you go

Before you get into the water, you should stop to consider your personal safety. It’s crucial to have at least one partner with you while you’re out on the water, says Marshall. Whether they’re swimming or paddling alongside you, having someone else who can help if you run into any sort of trouble is a must.

Marshall also recommends you check the weather and water quality before you take the plunge. Water quality is updated online for Mooney’s Bay in Ottawa where Marshall often swims, and she suggests checking out health advisories for your local waters before diving in. Lastly, swimmers should also check in with a lifeguard if they plan to go beyond the buoys on supervised beaches. “If there are lifeguards, talking to them and making sure you’re not breaking any of their rules is always a good thing,” she says. 

As for gear? Here are the essentials to take on open-water swimming: