I wonder how far it is from...

Alright kids, we’re actually going to learn something today! I caught a post out in the vast and deep swimmer blogosphere that wondered how I made the maps that pop up on my site. As many of you know I’ve recently started swimming with a GPS unit tucked under my cap to help measure and record my swims. But what if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on swim gadgets? How to you estimate distance in open water? Google Maps. Doing this is free and fast, but the capability to do so doesn’t come standard and you have to go through a few steps to make it happen.

The first step is to go to http://maps.google.com/, if you have a Google account make sure you’re signed in so that the changes you’re about to make are saved and are ready to use every time you go to Google Maps. Up in the top right corner you’ll see a weird little green shape next to the word “New!” – click that…

UPDATE! About a week after writing this Google made a small interface change that will make a difference to those of you trying to enable this feature while signed in with a Google account… you’ll need to click on a little gear shaped icon in the top right hand corner and then select the labs option. Everything else is the same!

ANOTHER UPDATE! So the only constant with Google is change it would seem… here’s the new way to get to this setting, in the bottom left hand corner search for a link that say “Maps Labs and click it”

This will pop up the box below. The tool you want to enable is the “Distance Measurement Tool.” Click enable and then “save changes” at the bottom of the box.

Now your map will have a little ruler icon down in the bottom left hand corner. Click it to enable and click it again to turn it off.

Once you’ve clicked the ruler you can now click points in the water that approximate where you’ve been swimming. Each click updates the total distance covered in a panel on the left hand side of the screen. A lot of the time I’ll switch from the regular map view to satellite to make it easier to see landmarks we use from the water to determine where to place turns.

So there you go… quick, easy and free open water swim distance estimation! I like to mess with this when I’m bored and play the “I wonder how far it would be to swim that?” game.

10 Responses to “How to Measure Swimming Distance in Open Water with Google Maps”

  1. Brendan says:

    Rob, I did this google map but didn’t get the red traced line. It did show the begin and end points and summed the distances traced, just no line. Did you add the line later with a “paint” program?

  2. Rob D says:

    Brendan – that’s how it shows up when I use the tool, no additional painting going on… not sure why you wouldn’t be getting the red route line

  3. ManuelRdgz says:

    That’s awesome man! I do alot of solo swimming and also swimming in different beaches throughout the coast of South Florida. This will help me soo much in figuring out open water distances and putting together fun workouts for my group. Thanks a ton!!

  4. Andrea says:

    Hey! Thanks for this! Found via Google, of course. Exactly what I was looking for and you explained it well! I really appreciate your post! Been swimming in Aquatic Park in SF and in Capitola, training for my first tri. Will have to check out the ret of your blog now :-) Cheers!

  5. zane says:

    Perfect perfect perfect….exactly what I was needing to measure my ocean swim training sessions….thanks for the tip:-) z

  6. Kathy says:

    Great job explaining how to do this, thank you! It’s just what I needed to measure water distance to kayak training. Now, if I could just save it…

  7. Steph says:

    Cool instructions. For years I have used
    Switch it to “straight line” and then click around the map to construct your route. I haven’t tried your method yet, but this one is easy.

    If you can’t remember the site, search google for “google pedometer”.

  8. Ossi Schmidt says:

    Mighty stuff and so simple. Thanks Rob, Ossi

  9. hpcoach says:

    Thanks ! As a full time tri coach this is very handy, much appreciate it and thanks all the way from down under!

  10. Robert says:

    Hey buddy, absoliutly first class information and brilliant for my boat plan thanks a bunch