Camaraderie, Community And Collegiality In The Open Water
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”
Despite the currents, tides, cold water, rough conditions and marine life, it is true that open water swimmers can modify Churchill’s statement for their own purposes: “I have taken more out of open water than open water has taken out of me.”
The camaraderie, collegiality and joy shared by people who regularly swim, either alone or together in groups, is clearly evident during training swims or relay crossings or mass participation events.
Those that take up the challenge of open water swimming share a strong common bond. For example, put any two open water swimmers together on a flight from San Francisco to Sydney or from London to Lisbon, and they will quickly form an amicable friendship and develop a healthy mutual respect. They will share non-stop stories that generates smiles, nods and laughter. They will discuss their nervousness before a race and their sense of accomplishment after. They will compare swims of different water temperatures, distances and conditions. They will talk about feeling too cold and too warm.
They can mutually understand nagging problems like leaking goggles and sore muscle. They profoundly appreciate the pain of a sting of a jellyfish and the sting of cold water. They can appreciate the feeling of swimming fast with the currents or against the currents – and of getting disoriented in the water. They completely understand what their new-found friend is describing without being told all the details.
Like marathon runners, deep-sea divers, mountain climbers and triathletes, open water swimmers can colorfully imagine and immediately appreciate the experiences and feelings of their fellow open water swimmer.
Those common ties generate warm feelings and magnifies a heartfelt sense of accomplishment – because they are now part of a greater community.
When an open water swimmer mentions to another, “I did Waikiki Roughwater Swim (or the Rottnest Channel Swim or the Great North Swim or the Midmar Mile),” the listener, if he or she has also done it, immediately conjures up emotions – both positive and negative – and images – both pleasant and surprising – of the race.
When the swims are solo efforts like marathon swims in one of the Oceans Seven channels, the athletes will appreciate each other’s preparations and accomplishments on an intangible level of profound proportions.
The collegial atmosphere at the elite levels in major international competitions is an example of these relationships. Even after the athletes come out of the water absolutely beat, punished into submission by their competitors and the elements. Even with some athletes are barely able to stand and others are nearly unable to talk, the athletes share looks, nods, winks, hugs and handshakes that tells volumes about their deep-felt mutual respect goes beyond being able to communicate via the spoken word.
Whether swimmers jump in the swollen ocean or a lake fighting heavy surface chop, this sense of open water adventure crosses cultures, ages, backgrounds and abilities. The challenge – and new friendships – make all the efforts worthwhile.
Photo above show the Round Ireland Swim team that swam 35 days over a 56-day period, with Henry O’Donnell as the organizer in addition to contributing to some mileage together with 30-year-old Ian Claxton, 28-year-old Tom Watters, 40-year-old Anne Marie Ward, 33-year-old Ryan Ward, and 37-year-old Nuala Moore.
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