Do You See In The Open Water Or Do You Observe?

Do You See In The Open Water Or Do You Observe?

Do you carefully listen to pre-race instructions and understand the race course and all the possible conditions you may face in an open water race?

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional book “A Scandal in Bohemia”, the famous detective Sherlock Holmes discusses the difference between seeing and observing with his friend and assistant Dr. Watson

You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room,” states Holmes.

Frequently,” replies Dr. Watson.

How often?”

Well, hundreds of times.”

Then how many are there?”

How many? I don’t know.”

Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

In this scale between seeing and observing as described by Holmes, how observant are you when it comes to the open water? Figuratively speaking, do you know how many steps there are in your own open water swims? When you stand on the shoreline getting ready to swim are you seeing the body of water – or are you profoundly observing the waterway and everything on it, under it, and around it? When you swim in open bodies of water, are you seeing where you are going – or are you observing and feeling all the elements around you from how the kelp is flowing around you, the direction the fish are swimming underneath you, the direction of the surface turbulence relative to your swimming direction? Can you tell the size of the motor of a boat coming towards you or accurately tell the water temperature within 1ºC or 1ºF? Can you tell if the jetty is 400m long or 500 meters? Can you tell where the water is shallow or how fast the wave is heading in your direction so you can catch it heading into shore?

Use all your senses to observe what is happening in the open water: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Talk with experienced swimmers. Ask them what they look at when they are standing onshore. Discuss your strategies for tackling a particular swim with a veteran. Inquire about open water swimming from those who have been around the sport for years or decades.

Swimmers like Greta Andersen, escort pilots like Mike Oram, coaches like Gerry Rodrigues, visionaries like Wayne Riddin, explorers like Ram Barkai, pioneers like Lewis Pugh, and role models like Lynne Cox are rare gems among us. Follow what they do and say, learn about their mindset, and study their actions. What they have done in the open water and where they are going can give you hints as to how you reach your own goals in the open water world.

Go beyond seeing. Delve deeper. Carefully observe the open water world around you.

Photo shows FINA official Ricardo Ratto explains a race course in Brazil.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association