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Dreaming About The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Open water swimmers often experience dreams of swimming in the ocean.

Their dreams range from intensely interesting and thoroughly enjoyable to simply frustrating and downright scary. Sometimes, swimmers have described swimming effortlessly in very cold water, but they feel comfortably warm.

Conversely, swimmers have experienced nightmares where something was holding them underwater and they did not have the strength to get to the surface.

Some examples are below:

Ram Barkai (founder of the International Ice Swimming Association from Cape Town, South Africa): “When I watch BBC Earth and Planet Blue and all these beautiful oceans documentaries, I dream about swimming underwater, in the waves under the ice as if I was one of them. Some look at the sky and some want to fly like a bird. I dream of swimming under the ice like a seal. It is not the power of a water epic predator that attracts me; it is the freedom of being able to breathe under water and not feeling the ice.”

John Mix (founder of FINIS from northern California, USA): “A recurring dream of mine is swimming underwater in big open blue water 10-20 foot depth looking up into the outside world – is total euphoria with no need to get air, just endless beauty, really weird but the dream has happened so many times and I always wake up thinking OMG that was so awesome.”

Steven Munatones (founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association from Southern California, USA): “I often experience dreams of swimming in the ocean. Sometimes, I see myself swimming so fast that I elevate out of the water and skim over the surface with a surreal grace. Other times, I find myself swimming endlessly and unsuccessfully against an oncoming current. Very rarely, I dream about swimming UP a waterfall. Unusual perhaps, but always interesting.”

Kevin Murphy (English Channel record holder from Great Britain): “I can’t ever recall dreaming about skimming the surface or swimming up waterfalls. I do recall hallucinating during some of my very long swims. During the latter part of my 52-hour three-way English Channel attempt, I thought I could see a factory with tall chimneys belching out smoke – it was only clouds. During my 43-hour Lake Balaton swim, I was washed into several bays during the night. There were towns on the shore or on the headlands. I hallucinated about swimming through canals or sewers in the towns to escape back out into the main body of the lake.”

Pat Gallant-Charette (channel swimming record holder from Maine, USA): “I have this recurrent dream. I’m nearing the finish line of a very lengthy marathon swim and the current is about to change. I pick up the pace and kick! kick! kick! The problem is my kicking in bed wakes me up. I always have a good chuckle and fall back to sleep.”

Linda Kaiser (International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee from Hawaii): “Whenever I dream of ocean swimming, I have a big shark swimming next to me. I believe it is my father, my aumakua.”

Lori King (marathon swimming veteran from Long Island, New York, USA): “The dreams I usually have involving swims are always the same: I either show up to the swim late and miss it or I don’t know where I am going. I guess these are two fears of mine in real life so whenever I dream about a swim, especially an organized one, these themes are reoccurring.”

Anthony McCarley (motivational speaker and channel swimmer from Pennsylvania, USA): “I think because of my sleep apnea problems, I don’t dream the same as most people. I have been trying to think of a swimming dream or nightmare, but other than ones that have really happened, I can’t think of a recent one. However, when I was a kid, I often had nightmares of drowning. Can’t tell you how often I had them, but a lot. One of the reasons why I forced myself to learn to swim at age 13 was to combat that nightmare and fear.”

Nuala Moore (ice swimmer from Ireland): “I swim through my plans in my thoughts when I go to bed. Often times, I wake up having completed my swims. I go through all the possible difficult scenarios of my swims. In the last few weeks in particular, I swim through the open water scenarios that I may face south of Cape Horn and go through all my possible eventualities. The winds are big and the swell so I guess I was subconsciously focusing on it.

I woke myself up the last morning with a jolt swimming in rough conditions saying “I’m in, I’m in” as the team were hauling me into the boat.
Being separated from the zodiac and being unable to get out of the water, are two of the greatest challenges for me. The teams need to know how to respond to both and I need to be able to handle the moment when it happens. I close my eyes at night and go through all the strategies that will need to be prep’d for and I prepare.

The realization that I was in bed and not in the water made me smile as I rolled over and went back to sleep.”

What kinds of dreams have you had?

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