Types of Open Water Swim Courses

Types of Open Water Swim Courses

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

There are 3 courses in the competitive pool swimming world: short course meters, long course meters and [the American] short course yards. The depth of the water and the number of lanes may differ; the types of starting block and finish pads may differ; the water temperatures may vary, but the distances from wall-to-wall are always 25 meters, 50 meters or 25 yards.

But it isn’t so in the open water world where the variety of course shapes mirrors the variety of marine environments

There are all kinds of courses:

A geometric course is any triangular, rectangular or any other multi-side shape of an open water race or relay. It usually has the start and finish at the same point, but not always. The start and finish can be in the water or on land. It can also be referred to as a loop course.

A loop course is a course where swimmers compete around turn buoys in any geometric shape (e.g., triangular or rectangular or otherwise), generally starting and finishing at the same point which can be in on land or in the water at a fixed position.

In contrast, a point-to-point course or a linear course is an open water swim where swimmers start and finish at two separate points that can be on land or in the water at a fixed position.

A ship-to-shore course begins on a ship or boat or other type of marine vessel and ends on a nearby shoreline.

An out-and-back course is an open water swim where swimmers start onshore, head out to a point away from shore in a bay, ocean, sea, lake or estuary, and then return back to the finish at the same point where the swim started.

A bank-to-bank course or a shore-to-shore course starts on one bank (of a river or shore) and finishes on the opposite or other bank.

An island-to-island swim is a point-to-point swim from one island to another.

An offshore swim is a swim where a majority or all of the swim is located far offshore, away from a continent or mainland.

A coastal swim is an open water swim where most of the course is located along a coast or shoreline.

A transoceanic swim course is a stage swim or relay across one of the world’s oceans.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association