Big, smooth displacements of water in the ocean – the rhythmic movement of ocean swells – can be used to your advantage while swimming in the coastal open water locations.
Railroading is when a swimmer uses the power of large wind-generated waves or ocean swells to push them forward as they swim towards the next buoy, towards the shore, or along the coastline.
As the waves and swells build up behind and beneath you, you can increase your kick and stroke rate in order to swim faster in conjunction with the power of the swell. This coordination with the dynamic movement of water can enable you to gain an incremental boost from Mother Nature’s power and direction.
Even if the swells are not precisely traveling in the same direction and angle as you are, but just slightly off their specific direction, it is still frequently advantageous to railroad in the open water for portions of your swim.
After the act of railroading a particular wave is over and the swell passes you, you can then reduce your kick and return to your natural stroke rate back to its normal cadence.
Upper photo shows Martin Goodman swimming to Robben Island from 3 Anchor Bay in South Africa, together with Roger Finch and Theodore Yach with the help of Derrick Frazer. Lower photo shows Stephen Redmond swimming towards Fastnet Rock in Ireland.
Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association