How to enter and exit the water fast with all your swimrun gear

Original post with pics HERE

You’ve probably heard this a lot, people with swimrun experience stressing the importance of being fast when entering and exiting the water. Now, is there any truth to this, and do you need to bother? The answer is yes, it is important, especially if you are a beginner. In this blog post we will explore why, and provide a step-by-step guide for how to successfully enter and exit the water in a smooth, safe and fast manner. There are many factors that influence the entry and exit, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or more advanced, there is always room for improvement.

Entering into the water

Independent if you’re a complete rookie, a swimrunner that just enjoys the adventure of swimrunning, or quite experienced chasing times or positions, you should use this guide for your own development ensuring you move towards the finish line rather than chasing that dreaded cut, or your gear floating around in the sea.
The entering phase stretches from the point where you drop your normal running pace, until the point where you take your first stroke. Between these two points you need to spend as little time as possible fiddling about with gear, as you will repeat this procedure over and over again in various terrain and conditions. Especially in longer swimrun race like ÖtillÖ, where you have close to 40 In & Outs, you will accumulate a lot of waste time if you repeatedly fiddle around. Let’s begin with the most important factor of all, the team composition.

The team composition

This is probably the most important but least obvious factor for a smooth transition into the water. It might sound odd at first, but figuring out your individual strengths and weaknesses, is key to determine how to enter the water as quickly as possible. Swimrunners race in teams of two, we often refer to the team as having a “lead swimrunner”, i.e. the one who either runs or swims ahead of the other, and the “passive swimrunner” which naturally is the one who follows. Recognizing who in the team is stronger in the coming stage, for example the swimming, before entering, it is good to have designated some entering tasks for the lead swimmer.

A lot of gear to think of before jumping into the water

Before you enter the water, make sure you have control over your gear. This is important since you don’t want to spend valuable time chasing after lost paddles, googles or having to adjust any gear in the water, especially in rough conditions.  If you both have the newer swimrun wet-suits with a front zipper, you are not dependent on each other for closing the back-zipper. Most of the time those without a front zipper will need the help of the partner zipping the back zipper and adjusting the wet race bib, and this can take some time if your fingers are cold. If you use a pull cord we recommend that it’s handled by the passive swimmer, who connects it to the lead swimmers back connector. Individual racing gear such as the googles, buoy, fins, paddles and the swim cap are straight forward. Just put it on at a time when it suits you and the team the best.

A step by step guide for fast entry into the water

Whatever routine you decide upon, it should be well-practiced, we suggest the following routine:

1. Closing up on the swimming stage, the lead swimmer runs ahead (or stays ahead), to scout the preferred entry point.

2. The lead swimmer scouts the terrain, avoiding possible wet and slippery sections on the rock, any loose moss or slippery sea grass and most important of all, finding an entry spot without sharp rocks hidden under the usually dark water.

3. While running towards the swimming entry point, both swimrunners mounts swimming caps, googles (transparent white), buoy, paddles and closes the zipper on the wetsuit. This should be done while still running, however at a slower pace. The passive swimmer prepares the pulling cord and mounts it on the lead swimmers back connector.

4. The passive swimmer signals that he/she is ready to enter the water (and that any pulling cord is attached). While waiting for this confirmation, the lead swimmer orientates him/her of the course and decides on the course and identifies distinct point(s) such as buoy(s) or landmark(s) on the other side to aim for. Consideration to sea conditions, i.e. any wind and currents should be included when deciding on the “the line” to swim.

5. Swimming should only commence after both have entered the water and have given the final OK.

At all times during entry and exit, a closed loop communication procedure should be upheld. This means that each command given by the lead swimrunner is verbally acknowledged by the passive swimrunner to avoid mistakes coming from simple miss-communication. If you practice this procedure and simultaneously putting some extra energy on mounting your gear while running, your entry into the water will become really fast. Another couple of points to have in mind, are to remember not to use your nails when putting on the swim cap. It rips easy. To avoid losing your pull buoy when entering or exiting, most swimrunners tighten the buoy with a rubber cord around the thigh. Transparent googles will help you with orienteering and finding the best spot to get in and out. But do not to touch the glass as vaseline on the goggles will make everything blurry and most likely stay there for the rest of the race. Dark goggles and dark water is always a bad combo. Enter the water with your paddles swim-ready because when you hit the water you should be ready to start swimming. You obviously do not dive unless it is a pier or well-known conditions, but if you do hold the paddles tight together. If you jump, keep them apart with the flat side down to keep you at the surface. However, we recommend either walking or walk-throwing yourself into the water to avoid gear falling off, or having cut off wet-suits curling up or needing readjustment.

Exiting the water

As swimming is slower than running and exiting is slower than entering, there is even more time to gain by executing well practiced exits. The lead swimmer should decide on exit point at a rather early stage in order to keep the most efficient line, but must then be able to adjust quickly if realizing time will be spend crawling up rather than taking a few steps at a different nearby exit point.

When exiting an extra wrist cord on the paddles can be used so that the hand can be used to take grip with fingers while paddles are hanging from the wrists. Other swimrunners remove them entirely and hold them in one hand or mouth.


If you goggles are not clear, we recommend removing them by pulling them down over your neck, just when reaching the rock. It is important to be effective but not to stress when exiting. Unnecessary stress will both increase risk for slipping and injury, as well as make your heart rate accelerate and waste needed energy. During long swims, we recommend you to paddle your feet and wrists a bit before reaching the exit, to get the blood going in your feet, which are usually cold.

Do you have any thoughts or perhaps a well-practiced scheme that differs from our suggestions, please share them, because we can all get better at it.

Remember to have fun, well, no need to remind you of it, because you will have fun, because swimrun is fun!

/The Ultraswimrun Team

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