I decided to swim from here to the mainland. This is Pulau Kapas in Malaysia
I think it took me about 3 hours. I learned a huge amount doing it and some of it may help you.
The first thing is that the world looks a lot different when your head is only a few inches above the water. I was meant to be aiming for the houses on the right but I couldn’t see them and so aimed for the nipple on the left.
You have no idea how far things are and because there are no landmarks close to you there’s no parallax to help you judge your movement. It can make you feel really trapped. For this patience is the best answer. You have to learn that perception of movement is a lot slower and as you accept that it becomes easier.
Then there are the waves. This looks beautiful doesn’t it? There are also loads of amazing tropical fish here as you swim out across the reef. Once you get into the channel though it gets choppy. You have to learn a new set of skills on managing waves.
Your pool skills are great for water that doesn’t move. But here it does and you have to adapt. Think of it more like the comparison between trail and track running. On an athletics track everything is perfect and you can focus on your form. Here you are using your form to cope with the unexpected and always changing water. Practice and familiarity are the best approaches to this.
The currents are hard. Because I aimed wrong I was further south than I should have been and I got caught by the current. This is really terrifying. I gave up, lay on my back and cried for a few minutes. It was so hard. When it comes to currents you have to change your mind about where you are going or you just fight. fight. fight. fight. No let up.
This is one of those places in life where you can’t quit because if you do you are screwed. It’s a really good lesson – but a really hard one. I hated learning it but I pushed through and eventually hit the shore. That is my face and nose rammed into the sand and I lay there I was so tired.
And then there are the beasties…..There aren’t really any sharks (actually there were here and they killed a lot of sailors after thea few hundred km away).
The beasties are all in your own mind. The ones that see your little white feet flipping away in the water and think “Yum. Time for a snack”. Getting out and swimming really helps to dispel these.
So some tips.
- Improve your swimming form – this makes it a lot easier
- Get stronger. Knowing that you can knock off lots of 1 and 2km sets in a session gives you confidence. You can use this to push back on your mind
- Swim with a buddy or group. Always. if they can do it you can too. The group psychology is often effective – and they are there to rescue you.
- Go out into the water and just relax. Let yourself float or sink. It’s not a big deal – much the same as in the pool but easier.
- Go out with fins and a snorkel
- Do some scuba diving
Above all just get out there and learn about your fears and discomforts and push them back little by little.
In retrospect I probably pushed too hard but many of the fears I had now have gone.
And if you want to make the same journey I did you can sign up here
This answer originally appeared on Quora