10 Tips for Overcoming Open Water Anxiety

Swimming out into open water can be both exhilarating and daunting. No matter your experience level, whether you're swimming recreationally or competitively, it's not uncommon to feel open water anxiety. Here's a few actions you can practice to prepare yourself beforehand, and a couple of calming techniques if you start to feel anxious out in the water.

Open water swimmers swimming around a FINIS buoy.

Mindfulness and Breathing Techniques:

Try to focus and to take control of your mindset. Be present and practice slow, rhythmic breathing. Before entering the open water, get yourself calm and relaxed so that you carry that same feeling into the water. Controlled breathing not only reduces anxiety but also enhances your swimming performance.

Visualisation and Positive Affirmations:

Envision yourself swimming through the water effortlessly. Use visualisation and positive affirmations to build a mental shield against anxiety. 

Know Your Surroundings:

Try to plan ahead and educate yourself about the open water you are entering. It can help if the water is clear and warm and you are aware of the currents, tides, and any potential hazards. Knowing your surroundings not only enhances your safety but also boosts your confidence in navigating different conditions.

Practice the Buddy System:

Alternatively, enlist a friend! Everything is better with a buddy, especially when conquering fears. Swim with a mate who understands your concerns and provides support. Shared experiences not only make open water activities more enjoyable but also foster a sense of security.

Floatation Devices and Equipment:

Invest in quality swim gear. If you find ocean swimming daunting, try using the FINIS Long Floating Fins for extra flotation and a snorkel so there is air on tap while you build your confidence. Breathing in choppy water can be hard to adjust to and the FINIS Stability Snorkel will help remove some of that stress while you get the feel for swimming in different conditions. Wearing comfortable and reliable equipment contributes significantly to a positive open water experience. 

Professional Guidance and Training:

Consider seeking guidance from swimming instructors or open water experts. Joining a swim class or hiring a coach can provide valuable insights, techniques, and encouragement tailored to your specific needs.

Set Realistic Goals:

Break down your open water goals into manageable steps and don't forget to celebrate small achievements along the way. Setting realistic milestones not only builds your confidence but also turns the challenge into a series of conquerable adventures.


Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break Mid-Swim:

If you start to feel anxiety or panic coming on, don't be afraid to stop and just chill for a minute. It can help to flip onto your back and try backstroke for a minute or two or taking a break to calm down before you get going again. 


Give Yourself Some Space

If you are in a race environment, being surrounded by other competitors can easily enhance feelings of anxiety. With so many people swimming around you, try to swim out wide and find yourself some space to calm down before working your way into the group.


Start Slow and Pick Up Your Pace Over Time

Most people go really hard right from the start of the swim and can risk burning out too soon. Instead, start slow, stay relaxed, keep your breathing steady and then pick up your pace as you get more comfortable in the water. When swimming, you breathe in time with your stroke-rate. Going faster can lead to shorter, shallower breaths and can induce some anxiety and panic. 


Conquering open water anxiety is a journey, not a race. Embrace the process, acknowledge your fears, and celebrate your victories. Go slow, dive in, and let the open water become a source excitement and accomplishment!

June 17, 2024 — Charlotte Nield