Poll Results

Calling all Open Water Swimmers! Share Your Voice to Shape the Future of the Sport!

Guide our advisory board committees to make informed decisions and take actions that benefit the entire community. We greatly appreciate your support and contributions!

Please note that the views expressed in this poll are not necessarily the views of WOWSA. This poll was conducted solely for the purpose of gathering information and insights from the open water swimming community. The collected data will be used to inform discussions and considerations within the committees. We value the diverse perspectives of our community and encourage respectful dialogue on the topics presented in this poll.

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Rules and Regulations


Safety and Risk Management


Coaching and Education


Media & Communications




Inclusion and Diversity

All of this is very exciting. Excited about the potential to increase environmental awareness and increased diversity and inclusion initiatives. One of the things I love about WOWSA is that as a swimmer who often needs wetsuit assistance in ocean swims I can still get my swims ratifies through WOWSA, as opposed to MSF which will not ratify. If overall standards are to be created it is important to still have assisted swim options for ratification. What is the point of telling some swimmers their swims don’t count if our goal is to get as many people safely swimming in open water as possible? Thank you.
As a disabled swimmer, I would love to see open water swimming as an outlet for others suffering from mental, physical ill health issues. It's a complex area, but understanding is the first step.
Comment regarding adding more regulations....I support standardization of rules/regs, but would caution against overdoing it such that the average open water swimmer and/or support crew is unable to participate. Also, some swimmers are unable to participate in some events due to having to provide their own support crew (especially if the events require extensive travel), so it would be great if there were more incentives for event organizers to be able to recruit support teams to help those who can't provide their own support crews. As for growing the sport, I think event organizers need to set realistic participation limits to ensure not only the safety of swimmers but also the environment. Regarding diversity and inclusion, I would strongly encourage the marketing committee/s to review language & images used to market the sport. For example, while the illustrations in the email communication for this survey are appealing, no people of color are represented/apparent.
Concerned to avoid too much regulation acting as a restriction on open water swimming eg compulsory wet suits below certain temperatures, coaching only by coaches who have prescribed qualifications. One of the joys of open water swimming is that all you need is your togs, goggles, a cap and some water to swim in - this is precious and must actively be preserved.
Deafness …. One of us is deaf marathon swimmer for years.
Do not go woke
Enough of the politics. Let's just swim. On multiple occasions I have been discriminated against because I am not left wing radical.
Esta perfecto los comités , solo se incluye y da participación a pedagogos puede ayudar a fortalecer los rubros en cuanto al impacto educativo hacia la comunidad de nadadores de aguas abiertas.
Facilities, for swimmers all around our coastal towns and villages. Toilets, outside showers taps. Eco/Waste disposal . Life guards.
Guidelines and best practices are good, but rules , regulations and policies are not. The governing bodies and “authorities” are only as fallible as their leadership, and when money is involved at all, corruption will soon follow. On a separate note, I cannot believe you would publish an article by someone who trashes your organization at every step. PLEASE!
haven't done an open water swim in years but coach masters and would like more info to encourage others and even do some myself. I think promotion is important and I think safety is paramount. My answers are mostly unsure with the diversity bc I feel we should be inclusive at the core and wonder why and IF we have to actively focus on that...it's like telling me to actively focus on brushing my teeth - I should just be doing it. I agree it is important. I feel you need to be careful to specifically "celebrate" some and not others... balance is good. I would promote swimming in general for safety. Think would this rule make this activity a "no-go" for anyone?
How would an event "apply" to be sanctioned, etc? Is this like the USMS push several years ago which asked for a ridiculous number of prop covers for motorized safety boats thus prompting us to never apply for a sanction from that group? I think that was for insurance coverage, but how would this be different? Not sure how one group can oversee everything efficiently, but I would definitely like to see WOWSA be a better citizen and representative of the sport.
Huge concern regarding lack of adequate safety measures and regulations for one of the “Oceans Seven” swims - Molokai on which a friend very nearly died recently in a boating accident before the swim even started. Pilot it seems is known as a problem and not the first incident with him.
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this poll.  Many of my answers are maybe: this is the result of holding public office for many years.  I understand the law of unintended consequences when giving answers to open-ended questions without discussion.  I am also reluctant to plant my flag with these same questions although I have a very open mind and although essentially ignored for my time (26 years) as a accomplished marathon swimmer, I have considerable knowledge and experience in all realms of our sport. That said, I am also keenly aware of the history of our sport and the trends that are developing, namely the numbers getting into the sport are who are completely unprepared for even beginner events. This is a major safety item unaddressed in the poll- perhaps develop a mechanism for new swimmers to ascertain their ability before entering open water events. As a swimmer, I watch them swim and roll my eyes. As a race director, I either refuse entry or counsel those on the ability cusp with some swimmers heeding my advice, some actually training well and finishing and some being pulled early in the day because they cannot swim when taken from the pool. I also believe that new blood and perspectives are overdue within the open water community- it has been the same names for years.
I believe in the philosophy of open the door and let them walk in when it comes to ethical and moral behavior patterns.
I could answer 'yes' to every single question above. However, I hope I displayed a level of prioritisation in relation to points. I have experience in open water swimming, event planning and delivery and coaching/mentoring swim enthusiasts.
I don’t have any concerns!
I fear technocrats and paperwork will dull the enthusiasm of amateur swimmers. The committees will focus on the elite swimmers and discriminate against amateurs.
I feel strongly that women who are born women should race against women but men that identify as women  for example transgender should race against themselves or against men
I feel that the area of independence is no longer present. There is a crossing over of organisations, between those who are commercially invested with governing bodies, there need to be a separation The observations forms need to be independent and there needs to be transparency on many issues I also think that the ability to question issues needs to be more friendly Several of the same people are now engaged in the different areas of the spoet and this is not allowing a separation of standards
I found it hard to answer regarding the rules and regulations, as I was not clear what the "organisations" were.
I think its important to promote open water swimming to the public, also to encourage and educate on open water safety, whether it be for a race, distance swim or social swimming.
i think safety is a really important one, making sure every swimmer is accounted for. Also for new to the sport easier options/ swims.
I think that it would be helpful to have one Leadership organization to take charge of all aspects of open water swimming.  One that is recognized the world over.  As it is now, there are many ad hoc groups.  I am most concerned about the “accuracy” of record swims.
I think that should be a program to get certified coaches in open water swimming.
I think WOWSA should widen its outreach and include events outside of the US, in particular the  Caribbean, as these islands already have events that are attended by a large quota of US swimmers, but are not covered by WOWSA. The warm and clean waters of the Caribbean are an untapped resource.
I would prohibit the use of plastic wraps in the event accessories, plastic cups, etc have a beach clean before the event if it is necessary It is always a good opportunity to empower nature and make everybody realise the gift to. have healthy oceans, etc
I would worry about over- regulation as it could prove to be a barrier in organising events. I find the open water swimming community very welcoming and inclusive. I don’t think it is necessary to highlight it and we certainly don’t need to be highjacked by groups with another agenda.
I’m all for more well researched guidelines and informational resources. I don’t believe OWS needs a central organization that mandates and enforces rules or dictates swims.
I’ve been competing in OW events for over 40 years and never have worn a wetsuit.  I miss the days when there were no wetsuits.  It’s amazing how many don’t wear them if they’re allowed but not in contention for awards.  I wish that they would be banned from OW events and participants learn to enjoy the feel of the water and not feel they have to wear one to be competitive.  It’s really gotten ridiculous.
Identify environmental issue in which open water community can campaign like.. micro plastics, sustainable fishing, etc.
Irish sign languages or subtitles should be used at any where or on meetings
Just focus on swimming. Just. Swimming.
Lets focus on the basics like establishing, promoting protocols for unassisted marathon swims like the MSF does.
Long distance  / Open water - swimming should be available Yo everyone Everywhere Simple
Me parece muy importante tener en cuenta en la tomas de decisiones, tematicas como el medio ambiente y el impacto de calentamiento global que sufrimos. En 2022 de recorrida por diferentes espejos de agua en nuestros nados salvajes, nadamos en rios que hoy se encuentran totalmente sin agua, es una tristeza vivir esto. Por otro lado la importancia de la inclusion de personas de toda indole, etnia, creencia religiosa, genero, etc, es un paso fundamental para la maduracion y evolucion de una sociedad mas integrada y justa. No menor la integracion de la mujer en las aguas abiertas y su rol en el empoderamiento femenino y equidad de genero acortando las brechas de desigualdad. Algo no menor y que lo hemos vivido este 2023 en travesias que realizamos, dar la posibilidad de que personas con capacidades diferentes puedan integrarse con el resto de deportistas  a una actividad que les brinda mayor calidad de vida y bienestar, repercutiendo en su recuperacion e integracion social, aumentando su autoestima y autoconfianza entre otras. Otro gran tema es darle a personas con bajor recursos las posibilidades de obtener lcompetencias acuaticas para prevenir ahogamientos. Hay muchas tematicas importantes que desde la natacion pueden hacer un trabajo de prevencion, como seria la afectacion de las enfermedades mentales y la importancia de el vinculo con el agua en temperaturas bajas para mejorar estas  enfermedades mentales y tambien a nivel fisico.
My personal coaching focus is on people who are not going to break any records except personal ones, so I have very few opinions about rules, regulations and standards that do not have to do with event safety.  One thing that bothers me in my own swims is that when you get in the realm of channel crossings and island circumnavigations there is a blurred line regarding officiating records and safety standards. Some swim organizations require, or imply to require observers when, for those of us just doing it for fun, they may not be needed.  In other words: those wanting to cross the English Channel to be recorded as having done so may want one protocol vs. those of us who want to do it for fun, want a safe crossing but don't care about non-safety rules or having it recorded for posterity.
My two major areas of interest/ concern for developing open water swimming are safety and environmental impact
none at this time
officials education was not addressed, but really needs to be structured across all disciplines.  So many horrible OW officials.  Also, there should be education about how to put on an OW event (what you need, # of volunteers, time, permits, safety, officials, etc.)
Open water swimming should directly encourage diversity without the need to affiliate with minority groups and without the need to seek partnerships. For solo (non-event crossing) there should be a well defined set of rules for ratification. I don’t think the current system is broken. Need a support boat, track and observer and swimmers need to follow the rules. For events again need a set of safety guidelines that are clear and can be leveraged by irganisers. The use of tow buoys is growing as a safety feature and I think this is good in some cases. Generally it is a hindrance to the swimmer rather than a help so if an event wants to insist on them that’s fine. International swimming is expensive as it is. We should minimise bureaucracy and be pragmatic about safety. Swimming has risk like mountain climbing. We do this voluntarily and understand the risks. Where individuals or associations have oversight like for Gibraltar or Cook Strait (eg Phil Rush) these individuals should not play god or unfairly be in a position to dictate who swims and when. We should encourage competition because the sport is growing and people protecting their patch (sometimes for financial gain) can prove a bottleneck! It is interesting that openwaterpedia was established and anyone could put up anything. Now there seems to be a thought process to control media interaction. If the swim is undertaken correctly with proper observation and ratification there should be not problem with swimmers talking to the media! It helps promotor the sport. The key is that what people say they have done is done, within the rules. If that is the case then things should flow accurately from there. An independent review tribunal (independent of WOWSA and MSF) to resolve disputes would be a good thing. We need to minimise bureaucracy! 6 committees is a lot to manage for an amateur organisation. Let’s not over-complicate things. Solos and events are different. Solos should have boat support sufficient to get all swimmers out of the water. Kayaks should be not compulsory. Some events can be safe without allocated boats or kayaks others not! There are multiple jurisdictions where swims take place. Many local authorities/councils will have their own risk mitigation rules. Let’s have guidelines but not over-egg this!
Passion for inclusion Freedom through water
Plan your work and work the plan no
Please don't dilute the 'rawness' of open water swimming with allowing wetsuits or other performance or speed enhancements. Real OWS is and should remain challenging and maybe it is something not everyone can do without considerable training. I believe in inclusion but there are no short cuts to achievement in OWS. Participants must train and acclimatise to safely achieve success. Using short cuts creates additional risk for organisers.
Please please please don't let LGBT or any other organization like it get their hands involved in this pure sport/pastime we all love so much. If someone wants to me queir or bisexual or anything for that matter...do it on your own time but don't make open water swimming part of an agenda. And to those who'd say they're in said community and don't feel welcome around a bunch of mostly heterosexual people...then I say "YOU have the problem" this isn't politics it's swim and I don't care what color you are or your sexual orientation, it makes no difference to me, leave it at the dock! "Let's ALL Just Swim!!!
Concerned to avoid too much regulation acting as a restriction on open water swimming eg compulsory wet suits below certain temperatures, coaching only by coaches who have prescribed qualifications. One of the joys of open water swimming is that all you need is your togs, goggles, a cap and some water to swim in - this is precious and must actively be preserved.g
Recently I swam in an ows venue in another country that required I take a class in cold water swimming. While the majority of the class aligned with WOWSA material, some recommendations were in direct contradiction. A common set of standards would be great.
Recognition for swimming marathons in other strokes and clear rules for those strokes.
Regulation too often leads to events being too difficult to host and/or events not happening.  Please tread lightly with standardization and regulation.   This very thing happened (and continues to happen) with triathlon and it hurt the fun, inclusivity, and spontaneity of the sport.
Safety to avoid Fran Crippens incedent
Sharing of as much info as possible. Top swimmers giving back is a big positive.
Thank you!
The key requirements include prevention of the dilution of long established open water swimming event practises and rules. E.g. English channel rules To adapt such rules to other open water swims as much as possible. Oceans 7 and IISA Ice 7 have standard requirements which enable comparisen between different swims. The definition of an assisted swim, as one which does not follow EC rules, is well accepted and could be/should be adopted and promoted by swim organisers so that swimmers and observers alike are in no doubt.
The organization should offer guidance & resources, but not required regulations. Part of the beauty of open water swimming is the different personalities of events, locations and participants. FINA already exists for a reason, let WOWSA exist for the above/beyond FINA's reach. Help bring people to the sport & provide resources for people to put on new events, but don't mandate away the personalities.
There already is such a global network! The Marathon Swimming Foundation. It's a one-stop-shop useful place and everyone involved in it should be spearheading this.
This all smacks of turning open water swimming into a woke industry and regulating away the informality and freedom which are at the core of its enjoyment.
To encourage diversity, there should be some scholarships available to develop swimmers and send to events/cover costs of events.
To promote greater participation in this survey, I think you should shorten it. It’s very very long.
Try to have one that is multi cultural , covering many age groups Great ideas all of these!
We have too many committees already   Good to have guidelines but let people swim. Most open water swimmers are recreational.
We need to focus on the future of open water swimming.  What sets it appart and how can we attract more participants.  Look at the pathway to participation, starting as junior or as an adult. Embrace technolodgy that makes the sport more interesting for spectators and participants.
We need to target youth and they are often overlooked or excluded because of minimum age requirements.
When phrased broadly, all of these points are good and well meaning.  However, when they are brought down to a specific race or event, a cookie-cutter approach doesn't always work.  Our race for example is all about inclusion, but what if we aren't able to make it wheelchair accessible, are we disqualified or not allowed to participate in the organization.  Or any of a hundred other things that might not fit, even though we don't disagree with the intention. A lot of the questions seem to be worded more towards marathon swims, however you are using open water swimming, events and races.  ie) the second question, should it all be standardized?  Which is what Fina/WA already does, which suits their purposes.  However for the hundreds of small mass-participation open water races around the world, standardization is not possible, nor necessary.  The uniqueness of each race is what makes the races more interesting than pool swimming in the first place. Also, with the regards to the committee asking if there should be one controlling group, I realize this is kind of WOWSA's raison detre, but first of all it would be impossible to get everyone to agree to all of WOWSA approved rules and secondly there will always be another group that won't join.  ie) CSA vs CS&PF.  Also, there is human nature... someone always wants to be the king, and wants to rule all of open water swimming and think they know best.  But they don't, regardless of who it is.  So unless it is all financially controlled by the same body (ie NFL, NBA, FIFA, FINA, etc) then there is no way to enforce rules, especially on people that disagree with them. However, I think it would be great to have best practices, recommendations, more communication and promotion.  So I would stick more towards clarity and promotion... than rules and regulations.
While my inclusion answers may be closed off. I really miss sports that promoted sports not the personalities of the people but the enjoyment of the sport. And while I think disabled people definitely enjoy the sport as well. I am confused on why there would not be more support for disabled events since there are Olympics for the disabled. Also feel like more popular run events, participation in long swims in open water should require a timed event to qualify to do a 3 mile or 6 mile swim. And that is for the safety of all involved.
World is International, not every place where people live Open Water swimming can always be perfect resources. There needs to be flexibility because It’s the only way to turn people fall in love with the sport
Would love more support for open water swims in Arizona (SCAR is the only one). Also, would be great to have mentorship and guidance as far as getting into serious open water swimming as far as training and resources regarding channel swims etc.
Let swim events and organizers to be diverse. This will promote growth of the sport as swimmers see lots of different ways to do their sport. We don't need overarching bureaucratic control. 2. Avoid overreach with regard to safety. Leave swimmers as free as possible to just swim as they see fit. 3. Please do not make open water swimming a platform for the liberal/woke social agenda. Your questionnaire is rife with questions that are consistent with this agenda. Swimmers are swimmers. Leave them alone to swim as individuals.
Regulation too often leads to events being too difficult to host and/or events not happening. Please tread lightly with standardization and regulation. This very thing happened (and continues to happen) with triathlon and it hurt the fun, inclusivity, and spontaneity of the sport.



    We look forward to your comments

  • EdwardRiley



    Re: Section 6
    i have been an ows for more than 40 years. i truly believe it to be the last remaining purely amateur athletic endeavor. For the most part when i swim in an officially recognized marathon/long swim, i swim with/against other individuals, there is no Male, Female or other designations, and no age grouping. if say 10 swimmers are entered they finish (or dont) in the order they cross the finish line-period. those that embellish their finish position as the 1st this or that are usually frowned upon and rightly so by long time participants.
    I am all for Expanding the field of swimmers to those not traditionally involved in the sport of swimming through concerted efforts by local swim groups but to invite labels and labeling to a sport that already revels in being outsiders to the domain and structure of organized pool events is to invite division and not diversity. Lets remain Equals in Ocean Waters Embrace.

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