Here are some frequently asked questions we hear from first-time practice swimmers.

I’d like to come swim at a practice swim, but I’m new to open water swimming and I’m not sure if I’m ready – what should I do?

You should be comfortable swimming 1000 metres (40 laps in a 25m pool) before attending a practice swim. If you are understandably nervous about open water swimming, let the practice supervisors and lifeguards know that you are new. You are not required to do the full 1500 m course: you may simply do a portion of the course and swim back to shore, as long as you are not swimming head-on into the pack of oncoming swimmers. Swim straight into shore. Do not swim back into the direction you came from. Once people have done their first few ocean swims, they tend to love it.

I’m new to open water swimming and I’d like some coaching – is there a coach at the practice swims?

There is no coach at our practice swims – practices are self-paced and self-directed. It is sometimes possible to find people to swim with, at a similar pace. VOWSA practice supervisors may be able to assist in matching up people to swim together. You should be prepared to swim on your own and at your own risk.

Is there an age restriction for practice swims?

All participants are welcome. However, swimmers under the age of 19 will need a parent, guardian or coach to sign a waiver before they are permitted to swim at a VOWSA practice swim.

Do I have to wear a wetsuit?

Wetsuits are not mandatory for practice swims (though most people wear one), but you must inform the VOWSA practice supervisors that you plan to swim without a wetsuit when you sign-in for practice.

Can I arrive late to a practice swim?

Swimmers must be present for the safety talk at approx 6:15 pm and should be ready to swim at 6:30 pm. We prefer to have everyone start at the same time so there is generally one large pack of swimmers for the lifeguards to monitor (although people will spread out). Sometimes swimmers will go around the course 2 or 3 times, so if you are arriving quite late then it’s possible to join in the “pack” as they go around for their second loop.

Why is there a $5 drop-in fee for practice swims?

VOWSA is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization. Your drop-in fees go towards paying the extra lifeguards to monitor our swimmers during practice, and towards the private recreation permit from the Vancouver Parks Board. For more information on the private recreation permit, please visit the parks board website.