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Open Water Swimming Tests

Open Water Swimming Tests are Easier Than You Think

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Girl happily swimming in lake
Carl Smith/Getty Images

I frequently get questions on the difficulty of the water skills tests. The good news is that they're not difficult at all, and I've written some tips below to make them even easier.

No matter which agency you certify with, you'll need to pass the following two water skills tests at some point during your Open Water course:

Float or tread water for 10 minutes in deep water Most people naturally float in water and should easily be able to pass this test by just lying on their back and floating. If you don't float naturally you might need to gently tread water. The best method is to just relax and let the water help you float.

200 meter/yard continuous surface swim or 300 meter/yard swim with mask, fins, and snorkel It's important to note that the swim is untimed, but continuous – which means you can take as long as you like, just as long as you don't stop. If you're not a strong swimmer there are two ways to give yourself a better chance of completing the swim:

  1. If you choose to do the 200 meter/yard swim you can take it slow and steady by back sculling (lying on your back and gently kicking and paddling with your hands), because as long as you're continuously moving forward you're OK.
  2. The second option is rarely mentioned by instructors but is actually a very good alternative - do the 300 meter/yard swim with mask, fins, and snorkel, because despite the longer distance even weak swimmers should find it easier to swim with the extra equipment. Again the key is to remember that slow and steady wins this race.
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