Your guide to the best swimming strokes for open water events
If you’re interested in taking part in Swim Serpentine but aren’t sure what stroke to do (or even if your favourite stroke is allowed!), read on for a rundown of your options…
Official swimming strokes
There are four official swimming strokes: front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke and butterfly. You can use any of them at Swim Serpentine, but we recommend practising and using front crawl.
Front crawl is the preferred stroke for open water swimming as it has the least resistance in choppy water. It’s also the fastest stroke and is used by elite open water swimmers. Breathing can be on either side, which is useful if there are waves coming from one side.
Breaststroke is a more relaxing, but slower, stroke, and is often the only stroke that people have learned. Breaststroke has the advantage that you can see which direction you’re swimming as you breathe and you don’t have put your head under water.
However, there are a number of downsides to breaststroke: it generates a lot of resistance when swimming; some swimmers find breaststroke hard on the knees and neck over a long distance; if you are wearing a wetsuit your legs can float too high for an efficient breaststroke kick; and if the water is choppy you can get a mouthful of water when you breathe.
Backstroke isn’t recommended in open water as you can’t see where you’re swimming and you may end up colliding with other swimmers.
Butterfly over a long distance is only undertaken occasionally by very experienced swimmers. In a mass participation event like Swim Serpentine, butterfly swimmers need to be careful of other swimmers around them as the arms tend to fling wide with this stroke.
So now you know which strokes to go for, you can start putting them into practice – and if you’d like to take part in Swim Serpentine, visit our entry page now!