Biomimicry Among The Open Water Swimmers

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

If we think about Planet Earth, it is a large dynamic system that has provided life with 3.8 billion years of relentless research and creative development.

Evolution has provided innumerable solutions that work well in context. There is a wonderfully compelling genius in the natural world and many scientists, researchers and individuals have observed and learned from nature over the eons.

But mankind is just beginning to understand and really tap into the genius of the marine world.

In the aquatic environment, whales, dolphins and porpoises move as a result of a number of factors and the shape of their fins. But the fins have properties based on their position, mobility, design, and hydrodynamic characteristics. Their fins, fixed as they are, allow the marine life to swim straight or laterally, turn, dive, surface, brake, slow down and reverse movement.

Competitive pool swimmers and their coaches are experimenting with their own sort of biomimicry in the search to swim faster. Especially over the last several years, beginning with Jesse Vassallo in Mission Viejo and then famously developed by David Berkoff at Harvard University, the kick and underwater dolphin movement has helped swimmers swim increasingly faster in the water.

The coaches and athletes understand the power that can be produced by the kick and streamlined nature of their head, torso, hips and knees. Similar to the study by Dr. Frank Fish, a marine biologist at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, who studied and learned that bottlenose dolphins produce their speed by using their powerful tails.

When we observe the fastest open water swimmers train and race, from Greta Andersen in the 1950s to Jordan Wilimovsky in contemporary times, we similarly observe how much focus and energy they put on their kick – and how much propulsion they generate.

But kicking in the open water is not easy and must be a forced or focused or learned activity. What is easy is a nice, slow, steady arm strokes with the legs essentially floating gently in a mild 2-beat kick, comfortably swimming at an all-day pace with a relatively low heart beat. But in a race with competitively minded athletes, you will observe their kick increases and their body and hip positions rise in order to swim faster.

So if you are fighting against a current, moving against a tide, or competing against your rivals in a race, you might want to focus on your kick…a form of biomimicry of the marine world.

Other articles on biomimicry for the open water swimming world:

* Commonalities Between Birds And Swimmers
* Sharklets Protect Humans
* Open Water Swimming Lessons From Nature

Copyright © 2008 – 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones