The beauty of swimming is that everyone can get involved. No matter what your age or skill level, there’s always an opportunity to start swimming competitively. Whether you have your local pool in mind, or even a lake, river or ocean swim, you’ll find a wealth of competitive swimming races, events and distances to suit your fitness ability.
Swim strokes for competitive swimming
Four types of swim stroke are used during competitive swimming, depending on the event. These are freestyle (aka front crawl), breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke.
The type of race and stroke used usually depend on the age of the swimmers. At Masters swim meets for over 18s, sprint races usually cover all four strokes, whereas Masters swim meets for under 18s usually include only one sprint race, with one stroke.
The Individual Medley (IM) race involves swimming all four swim strokes in one race, in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and then freestyle.
In competitive relay races, four swimmers take it in turns to complete a leg of the race, each swimming equal distances, one after the other, in the same lane. There are two main types of relay races in competitive swimming: the first is where all competitors swim freestyle; the second is known as a medley race, where each of the four competing athletes swim a different stroke.
Short-course and long-course swim meets
In competitive swimming, events are referred to as short-course or long-course, depending on the length of the swimming pool. Short-course (SC) swims are held in 25-metre pools, and long-course (LC) swims are held in 50-metre pools.
Competitive swimming in open-water
Got a love of the great outdoors? Competitive swimming isn’t limited to indoor pool events – open-water lake, river and ocean races are popular too. The distances vary from event to event, with a variety of options to suit most fitness levels.
Depending on the time of year, many competitive open-water events require a wetsuit. Open-water swimming also forms part of the first stage of a triathlon event.
Open-water relay races
Open-water relays are a popular competitive swimming event and usually consist of between 2-5 competitors in each team. Open-water relays are from point-to-point, where one swimmer reaches a designated point and another swimmer takes over. A boat usually acts as a guide to the swimmer, directing them as to which route to take. The next swimmer is onboard the boat, ready to get into the water for their part of the race.
Tempted to give it a go? Competitive swimming will challenge and stretch you towards reaching your goals. Plus, it can often be the perfect opportunity to meet other swimmers who share your passion for the water. So why wait – get going and get involved!
For more advice and top swimming tips, visit our swim tips section.
Tech Suits and Equipment
Here at ProSwimwear we're proud to support all swimmers, especially those with competitive goals! We love bringing you all of the latest racing equipment and tech suits to help you reach your goals on race day.
Check out some of our most popular tech suits today!
The Arena Powerskin® ST (available as kneesuit, jammers or costume) is a performance racing swimsuit produced using Arena's X-Raptor material, an incredibly light knitted fabric (only 190 gr/sqm), specially treated for an extra smooth outer surface. The suit offers a strong degree of muscle compression, enhancing the swimmer's natural ability by stabilizing muscle groups meaning they work at maximum efficiency. Strong compression also helps to increase circulation and decrease levels of lactic acid in the swimmers body. The entry-level pricing of these FINA approved suits makes them affordable for almost any budget.
Very happy - Review by Skitta
"Initially we thought they were too small but with a major event a week away my daughter tried them on again and decided they fit. She's a slim tall 12 year old and we purchased size 24. Has worn them twice now and although it takes a while to get on, apparently they are quite comfortable. Possibly could have gone size bigger but I believe they are meant to be super tight so they fit as supposed to."
(Posted on 20/02/2016)
The world's most successful suit - now with New bright colours to ensure you stand out on the blocks. Worn by gold medal winners, record breakers and the world's leading swimmers. The LZR Racer Elite is the world's most successful racing suit! Speedo have taken their winning race suit formula and built upon it, upgrading their highly succesful LZR Racer Elite to create an even more technologically advanced suit. Hugely popular amongst swimmers of all ages, from age groupers to masters swimmers. There is a huge variety of colour combinations and different versions of the LZR Racer Elite 2 to choose from, which could be the reason it's so high on our list of most popular racing suits.
Awesome tech suit - Review by Sueb
"My son has tried several tech suits, and this is his hands down favorite for compression without restricting movement. My son is athletically built, so he likes the high waist. We have noticed that It holds up better than the TYR, and it has better compression than the Arenas he's tried.. We'd never ordered from the UK before, and we had no problems at all with our ProSwimwear order "
(Posted on 09/08/2016)
First we had the Carbon Pro, then we got the Carbon Flex, and now we've got the Carbon Air! The professional swimsuit features Arena's signature carbon fibre technology and pairs this with a lightweight fabric for a suit focused on swimmer comfort as well as performance. The tech suits employ the Arena "Intelligent compression" as seen in the 'Pro' and 'Flex' suits. New to the Carbon Air is "Intelligent stretching" on the straps. Addressing a long standing problem with uncomfortably tight straps on women's performance kneeskins. These tech suits are proving to be highly popular because of their affordable price and amazing performance! It's a tech suit that's not out of place at Olympic level competitions, but it doesn't come with such a large price tag as some other racing suits.
Trust in it ! - Review by Alexandra
"It's the lightest professional swimwear. Very, very good. My daughter is so happy to have it. She won the national championship at breaststroke wearing this suit. You won't be sorry!!!"
(Posted on 14/08/2015)
Get set for racing with the Maru XT3 Viper Pro. The Maru XT3 racing swimsuits help with the body's micro-circulation and muscle oxygenation during physical activity and while resting. This makes the XT3 an ideal choice for junior competitive swimmers! They're water repellent with reinforced stitching, and they last a lot longer than some other FINA approved swimsuits because of the high polyamide/polyester content that's usually only found in long-life or endurance swimming costumes.
Great - Review by Kirsty
"10 year old daughter desperately wanted a race suit as she was going to a National Qualifier. Didn't want to spend a fortune on it as she's growing so fast!! She picked this suit as she loved the colour. Was so easy to get the size (unlike measuring for my older daughter) right and it fitted perfectly. Thanks ProSwimwear, will definitely use again"
(Posted on 31/03/2016)
This year's biggest rising star is definitely the Aquafeel I-Nov! We've seen popularity of this item skyrocket in the last few months because of the low price and the fact that the suit still packs in plenty of performance features! There are now three colour options to choose from in the kneesuit and jammers, Black/Red, Black/Blue or the new Black/Blue/Pink version. The classic, yet technologically advanced design of the i-Nov swimsuits combine to make this a real 'stand out' option. The i-NOV has been designed to withstand some of the toughest conditions and the constant exposure to chlorine, which impairs the elasticity and the return force of standard Lycra suits.
Excellent suit - Review by Lianne321
"My daughter loves this suit - shes not keen on the ones which are too open at the back, so this is perfect. She swims 8 hours a week and this has lasted so well. Shes worn it so much that the red faded into orange, so I actually just bought her 2 more exactly the same suit again as we were so pleased with it. Really well priced too. Service from Proswimear is great too, as we have tried other suits and returned. The dispatch has always been prompt as have the returns."
(Posted on 29/06/2016)
Created as a partner for the world-record breaking Arena Carbon Pro, The Arena Powerskin Carbon Flex is part of Arena's market-leading "Carbon" swimsuit series. Arena now have multiple carbon technology suits on the market, offering swimmers diverse options in flexibility and fit whilst maintaining the distinctive advantages of the world’s most innovative swim racing and muscle compression technology.
Excellent suit!! - Review by Katie
"Excellent suit! Great flexibility in the hips making turns and starts very easy. Love the extra length in the legs compared to the carbon pro. Highly recommend it !"
(Posted on 15/04/2016)
Speedo Fastskin Goggles
With lots of different colour and lens variations, the Speedo Fastskin Goggles are our most popular racing goggles. The Elite Mirrored Goggles are the fastest, most hydrodynamic goggles produced by Speedo to date. The Fastskin Goggles use patented IQFit technology and are engineered in Speedo's Aqualab to provide leak free performance and a secure fit on the face, even whilst doing dives and turns in the pool. Speedo are constantly updating and improving their line of Fastskin goggles so make sure you check back to see what the latest releases look like!
Excellent - Review by Beckie
"These goggles are great! I bought my daughter some and usually she complains that her goggles leak, steam up or are fairly uncomfortable so far she has not moaned about them. The goggles are really good quality and when worn properly do not leak. I would highly recommend these goggles mainly for racing as they get quite uncomfortable when worn for long a long period of time."
(Posted on 27/03/2016)
Arena Cobra Ultra Goggles
These are the goggles worn by UK Olympic Gold Medallist and world record holder Adam Peaty! The Arena Cobra Goggles have been gaining in popularity over the last few years and there are now more colour and style variations than ever before! The Cobra Ultra's sleek shape makes it the ultimate racing goggle for athletes who want to perform at their best and be better than the rest. Flat, hydrodynamic, a perfect fit, created from a performance-driven design to reduce drag and improve glide through the water.
First Class Product - Review by JackieT
Switched from my Speedo Fastskins, snug fit first time, no fogging and 2 Pbs on race day. My first choice for my racing goggles now.
(Posted on 19/02/2016)
Arena Tracks Goggles
The Arena Trax goggles have made our list of most popular performance products because of their low-profile design and silicone micro-gaskets. The low price certainly widens the appeal of these reliable, well designed swimming goggles. They're suitable for racing, or for training, they're just an excellent all-rounder! Available in a range of colours and lens types, the Tracks goggles are a firm favourite amongst our customers.
Great price for racing goggles! - Review by Gabby
"Good price compared with other brands. Varied size changeable nose bridge, means should fit all. Can be a bit delicate, so buy a protective case as well. Cool looking especially if mirrored!"
(Posted on 23/03/2016)
Speedo Speedsocket Goggles
Worn, and made famous by by Michael Phelps during his world-record breaking year at the 2004 Olympics. The Speedosocket goggles have been a favourite for competitive swimmers for over 10 years! You can't beat the tried and tested results of the world's best selling performance swimming goggles. You can own them with mirrored, polarised, tinted or clear lenses. These goggles fit comfortably because of their hypo-allergenic comfort fit seals and a silicone double length head strap as well as a high nose bridge with three size settings to choose from. These goggles have proven themselves to be some of the finest racing goggles available today and are understandably extremely popular.
Best goggles ever - they never fail! - Review by Susy
Undeniably one of the best goggles ever produced that give me that added extra boost on race day - despite buying other goggles - I always revert to these goggles! Awesome!
(Posted on 09/12/2015)
MP Michael Phelps XCEED Goggles
Michael Phelps now has his very own performance brand "MP" and the XCEED racing goggles are the flagship product. The XCEED goggles have been constructed with Exo core technology, combining two materials for maximum performance. A semi rigid exoskeleton maximises the goggles strength and stability. These have been flying off the shelves almost as fast as we can re-stock them! Popularity of these products has increased astronomically over the last year and they're now on our list of your most-loved performance goggles. Discover why swimmers love the new Michael Phelps XCEED goggles and buy yours today!
Top dollar - Review by Crone
This pair of Googles is World class. Have always struggled with the fitting. But those been perfect from start and they have a great view and looks awesome.
(Posted on 30/08/2016)