Keep a water bottle handy when you exercise to prevent dehydration.

Discover the Joys of Open Water Swimming

Swimming laps can be a meditative experience, as you get into a groove swimming along the pool’s lane lines. But consider moving your swim workout from the pool to the open water and turning meditation into adventure.

San Francisco is the perfect place to do this, with marquee open water swimming every day of the week at Aquatic Park, the enclosed waterway at the foot of Ghirardelli Square and the Maritime Museum.

A swim in Aquatic Park is a truly memorable experience. Early risers will love watching the sun come up over the East Bay hills as they move across the water. Late afternoon and evening swimmers will be in awe watching the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge.

Within Aquatic Park you can swim the buoys—a “lane” of buoys running East to West. A lap (out and back) of the buoys is about a third of a mile. Want to get more off the beaten “swim” path? Swim the perimeter of Aquatic Park, which is just under one mile. Wait! You want me to go from my comfortable pool which is 75 degrees into the chilly bay? Yes, that’s what we are saying. But, hold on… there are some tricks that will make the plunge more comfortable.

  • Wear a wetsuit. An open water wetsuit is thinner than a surf or dive wetsuit and has more “give” across the shoulder and arms, allowing for a comfortable range of motion in your stroke. These can be rented from Sports Basement.
  • Use goggles. Choose a pair with a larger lens and tighter gasket, which allow for increased peripheral vision and greater stability on your face. And depending on the time of day you prefer to swim, you may want to use colored lenses. For a sunny day at dawn or dusk, blue or brown lens will help protect your eyes against the sun’s glare off the water. For a foggy day, a clear lens will be optimal.
  • Put on a swim cap. You may impress tourists swimming bare-headed at Aquatic Park, but you’ll be more comfortable in the water if you keep your head covered. A thermal neoprene cap works best.
  • Keep feet and hands warm. If you get really cold, you can don swim gloves and socks. These accessories make the cold bay water bearable with the added perk of making you resemble a creature from the deep
  • Protect your ears. If maintaining inner ear equilibrium is a challenge, consider wearing ear plugs. While water at Aquatic Park is generally not too choppy, it is more dynamic than a pool.
  • Swim with a buddy. Open water swimming is best done with a friend, or you can join one of the many groups available.

So, give the pool a break, and surprise yourself with an open water swim at Aquatic Park, where you’ll be welcomed by an endearing and supportive community. And don’t worry; there are no sharks in Aquatic Park!

Sports Basement staff members Ian Ballentine and Brittany Garrett bring you expert information on the best gear available to train in comfort and style. Ian manages the, triathlon, swim, and run channels for Sports Basement. She swam for San Jose State University and currently competes in Ironman competitions and races for the Oakland Tri Club. Brittany, who holds a bachelor of science in kinesiology with an emphasis on exercise science, manages the footwear department at Sports Basement in the Presidio. She has been running competitively for 15 years and coaches collegiate cross country at San Francisco State University.