Open Water 6T - Teaching Open Water Feeding

Open Water 6T – Teaching Open Water Feeding

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When World Open Water Swimming Association-certified coaches introduce feeding and hydration to open water swimmers, they break up the teaching into bite-sized segments in what they call the Open Water 6T:

  1. Tools
  2. Techniques
  3. Timing
  4. Tactics
  5. Turf
  6. Taste

Tools includes the feeding instrument (feeding stick, hand-to-hand, rope-attached cup), the marine vessel (escort boat, kayak, paddle board, pontoon, pier) and feeding vessel (cup, gel pack, water bottle, portable Camelbak).

Technique includes how to position the body, how to grab the feeding vessel, how to return the feeding vessel using the following four steps:

First step: Seek and Spot
Second step: Reach and Roll
Third step: Gulp and Go
Fourth step: Toss and Turn

Timing includes the amount of time between feedings, the amount of time of the feedings, and the amount of time since the start and from the estimated finish.

Tactics includes when to feed depending on whether the swim is a competitive race, a relay or there are currents, chop or waves involved in a solo swim.

Turf includes the water conditions in terms of waves, swells, chop, temperature and marine life.

Taste includes how the swimmer feels (warm, cold, stressed physically, frustrated) and what tey need during their swim (more hydration, more carbohydrates, a boost through their favorite food or medication)

10 km marathon swimming competition in Odaiba Marine Park

The World Open Water Swimming Association-certified coaches believe there is a balance between what swimmers need physically and what soothes them psychologically. So, for example, while many athletes only use scientifically balanced gel packs, after hours of sucking down gel packs and other nutritionally formulated electrolyte drinks, sometimes the athlete is best served by a simple piece of chocolate, their favorite cookie, Coca-cola, plain pasta, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or hot chocolate. Because open water swimming is such a mentally driven athletic endeavor, these commonly available foods and drinks can satisfy athletes in ways that a packaged gel pack cannot.

The techniques advocated by World Open Water Swimming Association includes a four-step feeding process in order to feed quickly:

Seek and Spot is the first step of feeding when the open water swimmer heads toward the feeding pontoon (or escort boat), lifts their head to spot their coach or feeder, and identifies his/her coach standing on the pontoon. They seek out exactly where they must go, taking into account surface chop, swells and their relative position in the water versus the escort boat or feeding station.

Reach and Roll is the second step of feeding when an open water swimmer quickly consumes fuel (e.g., gel pack) or hydration (e.g., water) received from his/her coach on the feeding pontoon.

As the swimmer approaches the coach, he/she reaches up to grab their cup or bottle from his/her coach on the feeding pontoon, then turns over on his/her back to consumer the fuel or hydration.

Gulp and Go

Gulp and Go is the third step of feeding when an open water swimmer quickly consumes fuel (e.g., gel pack) or hydration (e.g., water) received from his/her coach on the feeding pontoon, then immediately begin to swim again after the momentary feeding stop. In a competitive race, the swimmer can hold their bottle with one arm while they are drinking on their back while their other arm is doing a backstroke pull.

Toss and Turn is the fourth step of feeding when an open water swimmer quickly discards the fuel (e.g., gel pack) or hydration (e.g., water cup or bottle) received from his/her coach and immediately turns over on his/her stomach to begin swimming after a momentary feeding stop.

Swimmers are strongly encouraged to toss their cups back to their coach. In some locations (e.g., Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, swimmers are required to properly discard their cups (i.e., not pollute the open body of water where they are swimming) or in professional marathon races, a volunteer staff collects discard cups. In some locations (e.g., Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association), a discarded cup or bottle is grounds for immediate disqualification) if the cup is not picked up by the swimmer or their escort crew.

Copyright © 2008 – 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones