The First Step In The Water

The First Step In The Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Why is it that first step in the water – whether in a chlorinated pool or saltwater venue – is so difficult?

While some people simply and quickly walk into any open body of water or dive into any pool with ease, many swimmers take time to enter the water…no matter the temperatures or conditions.

Of course, more time is usually required the colder the temperatures are and the rougher the conditions are.

Why is that first step into the water and that first stroke so difficult to take, even by people who love swimming or who do it every day?

It is only a slight procrastination or temporary hesitation, but it nearly always occurs, even by the most hardy and passionate. Then once the decision is made to start, there are 3 ways to start:

1. The Slow Walk
2. The Halfway Pause
3. The Dive

The Slow Walk is a gentle easing into the open water. These swimmers touch the water with their toes or sometimes bend down and feel the water with their fingertips. They think about it, look for people to talk with, check out the conditions again and again and again. They check their goggles over and over again, fiddle with their goggle straps twice or thrice more, always making sure there is a tight, comfortable seal. They pull on their swim cap, making sure their ears are covered. They re-check their earplugs, pushing and shaping them inside their ear canals. They confirm…again…that their swimsuit is properly tied (if male). Before their knees are wet, they alternatively think about adding more sunscreen or skin ointment, reconsider their workout sets or distances, any check their watch or the pace clock…anything to procrastinate and delay the inevitable. A slight majority of swimmers are most comfortable with The Slow Walk.

The opposite is the Dive, a full-on, gung-ho plunge into the water. After thinking about it, sometimes only for a few moments, these swimmers just go for it and dive or run in. They do so quickly without hesitation as the others remain on shore or on the pool deck. A definite minority of swimmers are comfortable with The Dive.

The hybrid between The Slow Walk and The Dive is The Halfway Pause. Many swimmers initially start with The Slow Walk and then pick up speed until they suddenly stop, pausing as they stand about waist-deep in the water. They are faster to get in the water compared with swimmers who do The Slow Walk, but they are not nearly as ambitious or comfortable as the swimmers who do The Dive. Once they are waist-deep, they are committed to getting into, but they still look around to delay the start. Sometimes, they do a half-dive by pushing off the bottom as they stand waist-deep in the water.

What do you prefer? The Slow Walk, The Halfway Pause, or The Dive?

Photo above shows Simon Griffiths of H2Open Magazine entering the water as he heads around Sandycove Island in Ireland.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association