Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

There is always a first time for everything in every sport – including the myriad experiences of open water swimmers:

1. When you first learn to Expect The Unexpected – usually after something unexpected happened to you in the open water for the first time.
2. When you have to face your first DNF, always disappointing, but especially the first time.
3. When the finish line turns out to be A LOT further away than you initially thought in mid-swim.
4. When your acclimatization takes longer time, more patience and greater effort than you first thought necessary.
5. When your navigational accuracy is WAY off, gradually enabling an increase in your navigational IQ.

6. When you have your first equipment malfunction right before the start of a swim.
7. When you learn how to pace yourself prior to sprinting to win.
8. When you learn to use your legs either for propulsion in flat water and stability in turbulent water.
9. When you learn that a large pack will slow around turn buoys.
10. When you learn the nuances and benefits of drafting.
11. When you instinctively know the shape of the pack in a race.
17. When you learn to swim in rough water without swallowing water, no matter how turbulent the water is.
18. When you learn to best to negative split a race.
19. When you body surf to a race finish.
20. When you put Vaseline on your ankles and outer shoulders to prevent your competitors from ziplining you.
21. When you learn that sunscreen can serve a similar purpose (as #20 above).
22. When you start of use a pace clock during pool workouts.
23. When you start to use hand paddles or pull buoys in pool practice.
24. When you start to use swim snorkels to help you focus on your hand path and improve your stroke technique.
25. When you swim near an escort boat and appreciate the guidance and support offered by an escort pilot and your crew.
26. When you use fins – kicking at a high pace – to help improve ankle flexibility and leg strength in practice.
27. When you use ear plugs when the water is cold.
28. When you learn about the viscosity of Lanolin compared to Vaseline.
29. When you dolphin perfectly in synch with ocean waves.
30. When you become hypothermic for the first time.
31. When you can easily calculate between Celsius and Fahrenheit water temperatures.
32. When you learn what types of hydration work best for you in rough water.
33. When you get stung by a jellyfish.
34. When you scrape tentacles off your skin.
35. When you see a shark while you are swimming.
36. When you swim with a dolphin or porpoise.
37. When you swim over a coral reef.
38. When you start to know all the different types of marine life you encounter in the ocean.
39. When you get entangled in seaweed or swim through a kelp beds.
40. When you feel a sense of pride while swimming in bioprene among triathletes protected by neoprene.
41. When you volunteer at a race and are able to mentor, instruct, guide or answer questions from other swimmers.
42. When you pack goodie bags or pick up post-race food or help with buoys for a race director.
43. When you organize or support a charity swims.
44. When you incorporate pull-outs and deck-ups in your pool training.
44. When you accept the physicality, whether intentional or unintentional, is part of the competitive open water swimming.
45. When you use rubber gloves or a plastic baggie to apply lanolin, sunscreen or Vaseline to your body in order keep your hands free from ointments.
46. When you learn how to urinate easily while swimming without a need to stop.
47. When you breathe in boat exhaust during a race.
48. When you experience chafe in a saltwater race.
49. When you make a written list of the things you need before a race.
50. When you cannot sleep well before an open water race.

For more information, review the list of 100 Things Every Open Water Swimmer Should Know.

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