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It’s All Small Stuff In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Richard Carlson, Ph.D. wrote the best-selling book, Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff™…and it’s all Small Stuff and left behind a legacy in print, mindset and a vast amount of online content.

While most open water swimmers view their sport in a macro sense – enjoying the outdoors and physical challenge of venturing past the shoreline – there is something to be said about thinking about open water swimming at the micro level.

Sometimes, it is the small stuff that presents the challenges and brings out the enjoyment in the open water.

…like a 1°C (or 1°F) change in water temperature. While most land-based athletes cannot tell a single degree change in air temperature, open water swimming immediately can sense minute water temperature changes – whether the water temperature goes up or down, especially at the extreme ranges (i.e., below 5°C or above 25°C).

…like a 1-knot change in wind speed or a 1°C change in wind direction when open water swimmers can definitely feel these small changes. Suddenly, a flat lake gets a little more turbulent and the ocean swells get a little more riddled with roughage.

…like a 1-foot difference in surf or swell size. Open water swimmers, especially if the wave direction is lateral or oncoming, that 1-foot difference can present a huge impediment to forward progress – or conversely, it can tremendously help push swimmers towards their goal.

…like a few minutes delay in facing on oncoming tidal flow. When the slack tide turns, the difficulty in swimming against a flow of water increases seemingly with every stroke. Conversely, when the tides and currents flow in a swimmer’s favor, all seem well.

…like a single encounter with one thin tentacle of any jellyfish can ruin a perfectly comfortable swim.

…like a 1° difference off the straight-line tangent in a point-to-point swim can ultimately lead to several hundreds of extra meters swum.

…like 1 second or even one tenth of a second that can make the difference between Olympic glory and disappointment. Touch just slightly ahead of a competitor and sponsorship may result that enables a career to continue. Lose and a career may be over.

…like one tiny smudge of lanolin, sunscreen or Vaseline on a pair of goggles that can significantly impair a swimmer’s vision leading to a whole lot of frustration.

…like one more stroke per minute over the course of a marathon swim can lead to a whole lot of time saved.

So like Carlson wrote, “…it’s all Small Stuff” that may be the truth at the end of the day for open water swimmers.

Photo by Phil While of Craig Lenning swimming in small stuff across Lake Mempremagog from Vermont, U.S.A. to Quebec, Canada.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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