Author Archives: bobbyofbrunei

Open vs closed hand in swimming strokes

A common thing some people do in their swimming stroke is a closed hand, I started an open hand technique following what was taught by total immersion, the purpose was so that the hand and arms be as relaxed as possible to conserve energy. As it turns out, the open hand is actually more effective in pulling the water, and therefore better for a swim stroke. Some studies have shown thar certain swimmers like Michael Phelps uses an open hand, and reseaarch has shown that an open hand is more effective. To be more prexise is a 10 degree separation.


Terry Laughlin of Total Immersion passed away

I just found out Terry laughlin who developed and founded total immersion had passed away last october.

Total immersion has been the main reason I have improved my swim technique since 2012. From struggling in swimming to becoming graceful and even faster in swimming. From struggling to do 1.5km in 45mins, being able to do 3.8km swim in 1hour and 30mins.

It is sad to know that a man who has spread the idea of effortless freestyle swimming has died, but it is nice to know that his techniques and teachings will live on when those who have learnt them.

Watch “Packing a bike for air travel (Flying with a road bicycle)” on YouTube

I am packing my bike for the first time in a bike case. This guide is really helpful.

Safety during an open water swim

Doing a solo openwater swim is risky, doing it in a group is safer, but even then the risks are still there.

If you are planning to do an open water swim, make sure you inform someone where you are going to do your swim, if possible have someone look over you during your swim, either from the shore, or from a water craft like a boat or kayak or a standup paddleboard. But for most of us that would be a luxury. In any case, this post will cover some of the aspects of safety based on my experience.


If you are to swim in area where motorboats past by, I highly recommend with a swimming buoy, this is so that they can easily spot you from afar and then avoid you.


SHARKS (or lack there of)

Most people have a fear of openwater swimming because of jaws or sharks, just keep in mind that sharks attacks are actually quite rare. A friend who SCUBA dives shares that she has done more than 80 dives in Brunei and has never seen a shark.


I have snorkeled in sabah once and there was a certain small fish that kept on pecking on me, but i guess I was invading its territory and it was being protective. Otherwise most fishes just pass by or swim away. One occassion I puked in the water, there were small fishes swimming along side me for a while.


The hazard that I keep on facing during an openwater swimming is jellyfish, and not just the big ones (like the one that stung my wife), the small ones can pack quite a sting. The pain is not much different to an ant bite or a bee sting (which i have also experienced). During a swim we may swim through them, and they are just reacting to us bumping into them, in my case its usually around the neck and chest area, a few times the armpit (so it was painful when I pulled and recover during a swim stroke).


Jelly fish protection is either wear a rash guard, or I have seen people use an anti jellyfish gel in Labuan, I haven’t seen it sold in Brunei though. Now treatment for stings is quite confusing if you google around.

Generally do not touch the tentacles if they are still attached, use an object to help pull it off. I have seen people use a credit card to scrap of any stingers that might be still attached, but others share that the pressure from the cards might inject more venom from the stingers.

A common suggestion is to urinate or pee on the affected area. I haven’t personally try this, but what I have tried is vinegar spray and warm water. The idea is the acid may deactivate the stingers or neutralize the venom, others suggest that the warm water may do the same thing. The general idea is if the temperature or pH of the solution matches the venom it will be neutralized, but if it doesn’t it will be activated, on that note there are those that suggest rinsing in the salty ocean water would suffice. I admit a warm shower does sting a bit initially, but it does feel soothed afterwards.


Group swimming is not much different from a group hike. It is best to swim in a group. After all in the case of a predator, what matters is not that you can swim faster than the predator, but that you can swim faster than the other swimmers. 😜

Jokes aside, group swimming is the best way for a beginner to try an open water swim. The number of people may give comfort, confidence and moral support to the person, especially in knowing that someone may accompany them or may even help them during times of need. So the first important part if a group swim is…


Ideally partner up with someone your speed, or at least doesn’t mind slowing down to keep you company. If there is an odd one out, then there can be a swim buddy of threes. But keep in mind despite being with company, even those who can swim, there are no guarantees that they can help you in an emergency situation. Which is why I recommend the swimmer to have at least a few basics before they begin to swim open water.


If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you have a swimming buoy, Note that even though it is not meant to be a flotation device or a lifesaving device (it says so on the package or the buoy) it can give the beginner a bit of confidence boost knowing that they might be assisted by a floating device if they get tired. Note that most people won’t need a floating device if they know how to relax in the water, especially since most people will float easily in sea water.

Another important use of a swimming buoy is as a dry bag. To place your belongings like your key or your wallet in it while you swim. You may be able to safely keep your mobile phone dry in it, but there is no guarantee. I would suggest an extra protection by putting it in its own protection bag.

An important note if swimmimg against the waves, if the waves are crushing, it is recommended that you hold the buoy in your arms instead of leaving it dragging behind. As the forces in a wave may break the tether to the buoy. (Which has happened before)


This is the part that is often difficult to maintain, especially if there are people different swimming abilities. Keep swimming in a pack, you don’t want to leave anyone behind. A slow beginner swimmer in the back may feel pressured to keep up and they may tire and quit sooner. In a bigger group, people with different abilities might split into 2 or 3 groups. But as long as you stay with your swimming buddy you shud be fine, and the groups should stay together. In the case of splits the choices are to maintain the group by stopping frequently at 50 or a 100 metres and wait for the rest, or to split the group between fast and slow, so the fast groups don’t need to stop so frequently and maintain their pace.


Before we begin it is best to identify the prequisites for you to be able to swim openwater.

  1. You know how to swim, at least 50 metres
  2. You know how to swim relaxed. You can swim 500 metres without feeling tired. This usually requires to be comfortable with your breathing rythm. Being able to breathe every 3 or 4 strokes would be an advantage. The longer you can hold your breath the more comfortable you can become, especially in hard waves.
  3. You can float, tread easily and comfortably. The sea water does make this a lot more easier than in the swimming pool.
  4. Sighting. In the swimming pool you have the lines and tiles to guide you, in the open water there is no such thing. Swimming breast stroke is easy to sight. Freestyle or front crawl is more tricky. What I would recommend is to lift head up to sight, right before turning the head to the side to breathe in.
  5. Swimming straight. A tricky thing to do. One way of checking in the pool is to close your eyes in the water
  6. Swim the distance, it is recommended to do what’s called over distance training where you swim 130% of the distance. This is to compensate for tge currents doing an openwater swim.


Before the swim, communicate to the group of the route.

  • The simplest route is straight out and back, its easier if there is a target to aim for. Most people wont be able to swim straight even with a swim marker.
  • Another route is one that triathlons usually do, which is a triangle loop, a few hundred metres outwards to the left, swim to the right parallel to the shore, and then back to starting point. its easier if you have a swim marker buoy. But its doable even if without.
  • Probably the safest and easiest route to swim far is to swim outwards for a few hundred metres, at least past the wave breakers, and then swim parallel to the shore, and then back. At least if anything happens or you get tired, you can always swim back to shore and walk back.
  • GPS. It is helpful if you have a GPS swim watch to keep track of the distance during a swim, it may also be use as a guide during the swim. At the least the distance and time you have covered. If you dont have a GPS watch, a simple trick is to count your strokes in the pool, e.g. If I swim with 50 strokes per 50 metres, then I have a rough idea on how long I have swam.

Weather, tides and currents

Be aware of the weather, currents and tides. Obviously do not swim in harsh weather where the winds are strongly blowing and causing huge waves.

The tides and currents are a bit challenging in the sense you might not notice it until you are in the water. This can cause you to swim further and faster than you expected.

If the tides are coming in i.e. getting high tide, the water will push you to the shore, if it is coming out i.e. getting low tide, then the water is pushing you out to see.

I haven’t notice the currents being that bad. If you are a strong swimmer, you should be fine. A weak swimmer should learn to relax if they are caught in a rip current, and swim to the side until they find the current pushing o shore.


Summarizing this post:


  • Be able to swim long distance. 50m-500m
  • Swim in a group
  • Use a swim buoy
  • Wear a rash guard or a long sleeve swim suit
  • Relax


  • Don’t Split up. Stay in packs.
  • Don’t Panic.
  • Don’t swim the distance in open water if you haven’t done so in a pool. At least do 130% in the pool.
  • Don’t swim in bad weather.

There is probably a few more things that I could cover, but these are the important things I can remember right now. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions to ask any other issues or to clarify certain aspects.

Raya day 1 – the 3 fathers – late father, father-in-law, and stepfather

1st day raya, woke up 5am, pondered if I wanted to do an early morning run or ride. Didn’t.  Weighed myself at 87.2kg.

10am prepped to go to a annual function on my late father’s side. My uncle often organizes it. The only time I get to see all my relatives on my father’s side. To be honest, I don’t know half of the people. Especially considering my father’s severed relationship with them. I grew up rarely seeing most of them. Arrived late, missed the tahlil, just when they all started eating. Ate fish fillet, some rice, chicken, some water melon. Nearing the end of the meal my uncle did a quiz on our lineage. I didn’t get to answer any of the questions. As I was leaving, salam (malay/Muslim version of shaking hands) with my 7ncles and some cousins, met my grandfather, he hasn’t attended this function in a long time. Might be last 5 years since my father died. 

12 pm, picked up one of my wife’s sister and her kids from lamunin, to go to Kuala Belait to my father-in-law. Met with the sibling in laws (is that a thing?) all the nephews and nieces made the house so lively. Had beef soup, cucur udang, some vegetables, a lightly spicy fried floured chicken, a banana and a drink soya bean. After that had a group photo before visiting a close family friend of in laws, a few minutes drive nearby.  There I had spaghetti, some rice, prawn, beef, and a fruit cocktail drink in sweetened milk.

4pm. Left and sent back the sister with kids to lamunin, had a pitstop at home in kulapis to go to the toilet, and to throw away the rubbish bags from house cleaning yesterday. Then headed to meet with my mother along with my stepfather who was headed towards his relatives at jangsak.

Before 6pm. We arrived jangsak a few minutes before my mother and stepfather. 2 tanah jambu family members were missing, one was working offshore, another probably has a shift coming up. I had a few pieces chocolate cakes with chocolate cornflakes, and a can of pepsi. My nose at this point started to sniffle, it was only later at home I remembered that this house has cats along with other exotic pets, which might have triggered my runny nose. Went to the house next door for dinner, which then I had some Kampung rice, yellow rice, beef in soysauce, and I think was goat in curry, and sayur umbut (boiled bamboo shoots cooked in coconut milk).

7pm, we left for home. 5 houses and I was already bloated and gassy. In my youth I seem to remember hitting at least 10 houses in a single day. But then again not all of those houses had buffets. During my time we walked around to go from house to house, I didn’t see any kids walking around today. Heard a few more firecrackers tonight, but not so close to home this time.

I couldn’t properly sleep with a gassy tummy and a stuffed and runny nose. Didn’t flush and drain my nose properly while taking a bath. Used the buteyko method of controlled hypoxic breathing to help clear my nose enough for me to sleep comfortably. Slept before midnight, but woke up at 3am, slept back after 5am.