Crushing Waves, Strong Currents In Copacabana Beach

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Copacabana Beach certainly ain’t a rowing basin or a manmade lake.

Site of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in one of the world’s most famous beaches facing winter season in the Atlantic Ocean, Copacabana Beach has the very distinct probability to have huge waves, strong currents, massive tidal flows and strong winds during the race.

For experienced open water swimmers like Jordan Wilimovsky who grew up on the beach in Malibu, California, these are not unfamiliar conditions. But for other finalists in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, they would much prefer zero waves, no currents and conditions as flat and calm as can be.

But if this week is any indication, the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim will turn into a wild rough water swim that will challenge every open water skill of the finalists.

And, in our opinion, that is the best way to distinguish between the pool events with the open water swimming races on the Olympic calendar.

While the American media is focused on dangerous bacteria and water quality issues that can reportedly cause serious illnesses and possibly death, the swimmers themselves and their coaches are focusing on their final preparations and how possibly to deal with an Olympic course where massive ocean swells can raise havoc.

What kind of havoc?
* In massive ocean swells, the turn buoys feeding pontoons can become unanchored and float aimlessly along the course
* In massive ocean swells, the feeding pontoons can become unanchored and making the swimmers rely on their gel packs stuck in their swimsuits
* If a series of massive ocean swell crashes at the wrong times, athletes can be separated and packs can be non-existent
* If a series of waves takes out the finish pontoon
* If high surf washes away much of the white sand beach, reducing the ability for thousands of spectators to watch the races
* In massive ocean swells, the contours of the beach may lead to rip currents and backwash that creates oncoming resistance as the swimmers head to shore or to the finish

But from the perspective of ocean swimmers and television viewers, these conditions would highlight many of the inherent risks of open water swimming.

Professor Ricardo Ratto, who has helped organize many ocean swims in Copacabana Beach and other beaches in Brazil, explains a little bit about the 2007 Pan American Games and the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympic Games 10 km marathon swimming courses:

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones