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Summer Surfing In The Swim

As the surf kicks up and the summer ocean swimming season kicks off in Southern California, the importance of body surfing among competitive ocean swimmers always comes up.

As swimmers approach the shore taxed physically, it is often aerobically difficult to pick up the kick and body surf in. Matty Mitchell and Hank Wise often conduct pool swimming sets to help replicate a fast-closing body surfing onshore finish.

These sets include swims where the last 25m or 25 yards of a series of swims are done with either no breaths or as few as possible in order to replicate the finish of an ocean swim where there is large waves.

The sets can be 200-400 yards or meters in distance with the last 25 holding your breath as you may have to if you are caught up in the whitewater and trying to kick it in and get the very last propulsion out of a wave at the finish.

To catch a wave at the finish, swimmers must perfectly time their launch to get full benefit for a body surfing finish. Most experienced swimmers kick and stroke fast right before the wave picks up. As they feel the power of the wave underneath them, we meld themselves to be slightly ahead of the wave. Once they are picked up by the wave, they outstretched their arm(s) while still kicking hard as they ride down the face of the wave. At all times, they want to be slightly ahead of the wave, not engulfed in the whitewater. If the wave is strong or the swimmer is caught within the whitewater, then the experienced swimmer drop the head, kicks even harder and strokes with one arm while he other arm remains outstretched. In this position, a veteran ocean swimmer can ride a strong wave a long distance, often picking up distance and passing other swimmers ahead. As the wave’s power is reduced as it enters the shallows, the swimmer can then begin dolphining to the onshore finish.

Photo above shows swimmers finishing the annual Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim from Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach. (Sean Hiller, Staff Photographer)

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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