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Lap Swimming Etiquette

In a perfect world, there would be one lap lane for every swimmer. However, with only four lanes and a combination of instructional and recreation programs, lap swimmers must often share. The following are helpful tips to help navigate the waves and make your workout more pleasant.

Choosing a lane - speed is key

  • Take your speed and the pace of others into consideration when choosing a lane
  • Slower swimmers generally use the outside lanes, while faster swimmers keep to the inside lanes
  • If you stop often to rest or find that other swimmers in your lane pass you, consider moving to an outside lane

Entering a lane, passing, turning and stopping

  • Sharing a lane is like sharing the road; use the right signals before jumping in to avoid crashes.
  • Get the attention of the other swimmer(s) and ask if you can share their lane. This may consist of waving a kickboard in the water or calling out as they approach. When in doubt, ask the lifeguards for help.
  • Decide together if you’d like to split the lane or circle swim. 
    • Splitting the lane means that one person swims back and forth on the right half of the lane while the other stays to the left. This allows both swimmers to keep their own pace without having to pass.
    • Circle swimming takes place when three or more swimmers share a lane or when two swimmers expect to share with others as the pool gets more crowded. Swimmers start on the right side of the lane and follow the lines in a counter clockwise direction, keeping the lane line or wall on the right as they continue up and down the lane.
    • Give each other space to avoid traffic jams, crashes and unnecessary passing.
  • Flash your lights, tap their toes to pass
    • This is the universal signal that not all swimmers are going at the same pace and the person behind wants to go faster.
    • For the person getting their toes touched, this is your cue that something is about to happen.  If you’re near the end of the lane, pull over into the right corner and wait for the swimmer(s) behind you to pass. If you’ve just started the next length, slow your pace slightly, stay close to the rope or wall, and don’t swerve or stop. The person behind you will speed up and pass.
    • Need to pass a slower swimmer? Tap their toes once to signal your intent and then slow down a little so that you can look around and find the right time to pass. Always pass on the left and be careful of oncoming traffic. Continually tapping someone’s toes may send the wrong signal, cause a crash or lead to lane rage.
    • If you’re consistently being passed or passing others, you may be in the wrong lane.  Reassess your speed and choose a lane with those keeping the same pace as you.
  • If circle swimming, use the markings on the middle of the lane to help you turn
    • Think of it as making a U-Turn. As you approach the end of the lane, swim toward the center, aiming for the tiled cross on the wall.
    • Use the wall to help you push off while aiming yourself toward the lane line or wall to your right and just keep swimming…
  • Need a rest? Pull over and stop in a corner
    • Just like rest stops on the highway, the corners of the lane are a safe place for you to rest without getting run over.
    • Hang out there until you’re ready to resume your workout.
    • As with driving in traffic, merging back into the lane takes patience. Wait for the other swimmers to pass before you push off and begin swimming.