Defining The Size Of Popular Open Water Swims

Defining The Size Of Popular Open Water Swims

Open water race directors around the world currently define the size of their events in various ways.

Their numbers – which can be skewed and viewed in different ways in seven different ways – bring a healthy perspective on the growth of the sport.

1. The total number of swimmers entered in a competitively timed event, regarding of the number of days or different races of different lengths (e.g., 1,000 entrants in 3 separate events of different distances held over 2 days).
2. The total number of finishers of a competitively timed event, regardless of the number of days or different races of different lengths (e.g., 850 finishers in 3 separate events of different distances held over 2 days).
3. The total number of swimmers entered in a competitively timed event of the same distance (e.g., 600 swimmers entered in the 1-mile race, conducted in several heats over 2 days).
4. The total number of swimmers entered in a competitively timed event of the same distance held on the same day (e.g., 400 swimmers entered in a 1-mile race conducted in several heat on the same day).
5. The total number of swimmers entered in a mass participation swim (i.e., where no official finish time is taken for any swimmer).
6. The total number of swimmers who finish a mass participation swim.
7. The total number of swimmers who enter in a series conducted over a number of weekends and managed by the same race organizer.

Despite a lack of a commonly accepted means to judge what open water events are bigger, the sport continues to grow.

In Europe, the 2009 Vansbrosimningen saw 9,841 individuals participate in the largest open water race in northern Europe. That is remarkable growth when one considers that the Vansbrosimningen officially started in 1956 after 9 people swam under six bridges back in 1950 as a challenge. But its growth is typical of the world’s most successful open water swimming events:

400 swimmers in 1972
1,120 in 1982
2,672 swimmers in 1992
4,000+ swimmers in 2002
7,000+ swimmers in 2006
9,841 in 2009.

With swimmers from several European countries and others from as far away as Mexico, Vansbrosimningen is a major event on the global open water swimming schedule, but it is not close to being the biggest.

The world’s biggest competitive event is the Midmar Mile in South Africa with nearly 19,000 swimmers and nearly 14,000 finishers competing over two days. The 3.3K Sun Moon Lake International Swim, with nearly 26,000 competitors in a massive one-day event in Taiwan, is the world’s largest mass participation swim.

But there is definitely another hugely popular swim whose percentage and absolute growth simply dwarfs all others, now and throughout the history of the sport: the Great North Swim which may expand to nearly 10,000 competitors soon with its series reaching 20,000 swimmers within a short time frame.

Copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source