Sighting for Success

Become a more efficient swimmer with proper sighting

Often I’m asked, “how much should I sight?” The answer I always give is: “Only as often as required to keep you moving in a straight line.” By not weaving around the swim course, you save a great deal of energy. However, lifting your head above the water in itself costs you quite a bit of energy. Proper sighting therefore becomes as much critical component of your technique as your pull pattern through the water.


There is a technique to sighting. The higher you lift your head, the greater the demands on your energy. When they need to sight, I suggest my swimmers breathe to the side as they normally would, but instead of placing their face directly back in the water, roll their eyes forward and sneak a peak ahead such that only their eyes are above the waterline. This allows them to save energy by not having to lift their head enough to clear their mouth of the surface of the water. 


There are various approaches for keeping a straight track through the water:

  • Develop a balanced stroke by applying equal pressure to both hands. Just like in a canoe, if you paddle stronger on one side than the other, you will eventually drift off course

  • Breathe on both sides of your body, also known as bilateral breathing. This will help you maintain a balanced stroke. Swimmers who  only breathe to one side inevitably develop a dominant arm.

  • Sight off the side. As part of your normal breathing pattern take note of how far away the shore is on either side of you. If the shore starts getting closer, you’re likely drifting.

  • Draft off of a fellow swimmer. This can be a tricky one because the person you’re drafting off of must not only be moving about the same speed, but also swimming in a straight line. This is something that can easily be practiced with a partner with each of you taking a turn leading.

There is a simple drill for improving your ability to maintain a straight line. Start sighting only every ten strokes. After each cycle, take a peak ahead and determine if you have drifted off course. If so, adjust your pull pattern and breathing cycle such that after the next ten strokes you are still maintaining a straight line. At first this will take a while to get the hang of, but once mastered, start to extend the number of strokes between how often you sight. With practice, you’ll soon be taking over 100 strokes before having to lift your head!


Stay safe and always swim with a partner,

Dave Sek

01 January 2014


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