Open Water

Open Water in Swim England North West

Captain Webb, Lord Byron and others started it. Captain Webb swam the English Channel in 1875, considered today as one of the three toughest marathon swims in the world.

Open water swimming was officially recognised by FINA, the world governing body of swimming in 1986, but you can go back to the 1896 Olympic Games and before to realise that Open Water swimming was the forerunner of the indoor competitive swimming that we know today.



Long distance swimming is any swimming competition in open water up to 25km. Events greater than this are referred to as marathon swims. Lakes, rivers, canals and the sea
constitute open water. Pool events such as swimathons do not count.

Organisation and Events:

The ASA runs swimming in this country and has run an open water national championship for 100 years. Formerly over 5 miles, the event has been brought into line with world events and is now 5km. There is also a 25km event. District Open Water Championships for seniors and juniors are a more recent development.

The ASA is affiliated to FINA, the world governing body. It has run a World Championship since 1986 and now its open water events are incorporated into many major championships.

It is also important to recognise the important work that the British Long Distance Swimming association (BLDSA) has contributed to the sport. They have consistently encouraged the development of the sport through organising a comprehensive review programme of competitions through the British summer.

The Channel Swimming Association (CSA) and the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CS&PF) regulate all swims in the English Channel.

Anyone undertaking open water swimming must be a competent swimmer. Whilst open water demands different skills to those of pool swimming, the differences are no greater than between freestyle and backstroke.

How do I get involved in open water?

  • Keep doing the training in the pool with your local club
  • Enter indoor races such as indoor 5km Championship
  • If already on a distance programme keep to it, you are unlikley to need to change
  • Enter District Open water races
  • Make sure your first open water event is over a shorter distance
  • Having succeded over the shorter distances enter a grand prix distance later in the season

Your performances will improve as your open water skills develop, but the key to success is the speed you have developed in the pool.