You might be a fish in the pool, where visibility is clear, waves are nonexistent, and a handy wall clock tracks your pace. But swimming in open water is another beast entirely. “The ocean presents a living and dynamic environment that’s less familiar for many people,” says Matt Dixon, elite triathlon coach, founder of Purplepatch Fitness, and author of The Well-Built Triathlete—and that can lead to nerves or even panic. For first-timers and seasoned vets alike, here are Dixon’s tips for conquering open-water anxiety and becoming a stronger swimmer out in the surf.

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