New Experiences In The Open Water World


Part of the lure of open water swimming is the opportunity to travel to new places and experience all different types of venues. Ask any experienced and elite open water swimmer where they have raced, and the chances are very good that it will be a lengthy list.

While most pool swimmers will tell you he or she has a favorite pool, the reality is that most pools are created equal.

Competition pools have tight tolerances and standard qualifications that must be met, including water temperature, water and air quality, gutter systems, and other parameters.

When an open water swimmer says something like “I am traveling to London“, it can mean “I am going to jump in the Serpentine” or “I have a swim in Windermere” or “I have heading to Dover“.

When an open water swimmer says something like “I am traveling to Hawaii“, it can mean “I am doing the Waikiki Roughwater Swim” or “I have a swim across the Maui Channel” or “I am doing some training on the North Shore“.

Often, nature and the natural environment are the drivers to an open water swimmer’s travel, not man-made objects and architecture.

And that environment is dynamic because not only two open water swimming venues are created equal, but also there are many variables to each environment depending on the day, conditions, seasons, and time of day. Dams and reservoirs can be as warm and calm as bays and channels are cold and rough. Not only are the differences between oceans and lakes, estuaries and rivers, canals and lochs enormous, but so are the conditions of the swimming between winter and summer, morning and afternoon, night and day.

Well-known variables of open water include currents or lack thereof. Currents can play a huge role in races, and swimmers need to be cognizant of the dynamic movement of water. An example of a race in which currents played a large role was the 2012 Olympic Marathon Swimming Qualification race in Setubal, Portugal or the recent professional marathon swims in Cozumel, Mexico. Both in Portugal and Mexico, swimmers faced adverse (oncoming and lateral) currents.

Expect the unexpected” is a commonly used phrase in the sport of open water swimming. The variables inherent in the sport are numerous and, often times, unpredictable. Swimmers must be ready and willing to not only accept the conditions of each race, but also acclimate to them.

No matter where they are.

Photo shows Dr. Harry Huffaker at the age of 50 emerging from the Hawaiian waters after a training swim.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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