The correct technique to turn marker buoys in open water swimming

Turning buoys can be daunting if you are new to open water swimming, as they can get pretty rough. If you take a good line in the 100-200m leading into the turn, you can gain multiple body lengths on your competitors. Below are four scenarios you may find yourself in during a race, and strategies to implement in each case:

By yourself

If you draft on somebody’s feet by yourself, you have two simple options. Firstly, you can swim around it, ensuring that you shorten your inside stroke so that you change direction. The second option is to swim directly towards it and keep the buoy on the inside before using your outside stroke to roll over and turn 90 degrees.

Inside of pack

If you find yourself on the inside of a pack 100-200m out from the turn, you may be in for a beating from other swimmers as you swim past the buoy. To avoid this chaos, it is best to dive under the buoy and pull yourself around the anchor line with your inside hand before popping up on the other side. It is important to note that this can be an energy consuming process, and the breath control element may be too much if you are already well into the red zone.

Outside of pack

If caught along the outside of a pack, you may have to take the long way around to turn. Although you may lose a few body lengths to those on the inside, this option will be a lot smoother due to less congestion, and the energy conserved from avoiding traffic may prove more advantageous than taking a shorter line.

Middle of pack

If you find yourself in the middle of a pack leading into the turn, you could be in for a rough time. You may be forced to decide between speeding up or slowing down to avoid the scuffles that take place around the buoy. More experienced open water swimmers may choose to stay in the middle of the pack for the drafting benefits, as they will be able to handle themselves if it gets rough around the turning buoy.

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