How High Is Your Navigational IQ In The Open Water?

How High Is Your Navigational IQ In The Open Water?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Your navigational IQ is your innate ability to swim the quickest course in the open bodies of water.  Steven Munatones explains, “Most often, this is the straightest course possible, but occasionally it is not depending on the currents, tides, wave height and direction, wind direction, and other factors.

A swimmer with high navigational IQ has the innate and well-developed ability to swim straight as well as to use the elements in the most effective manner, from waves to currents especially when the conditions are less than optimal in rough water, low-light, or high-glare conditions.

One of the most remarkable swims that I saw was about 10 years ago when Petar Stoychev competed in the FINA World Cup race off Governors Island in New York City. The race was organized by Morty Berger and the conditions gradually deteriorated throughout the race. Even the finish pontoon got loose from its anchored position and started drifting in the middle of the race. The organizers got it back in place, but Petar took different lines throughout the swim. In one particular brilliant move, he swam right next to the fast-moving water that was flowing against the protective walls of Governors Island. It gave him such an advantage. In the loop course, Petar kept on finding fast-moving water as the tides kept changing. Petar is one of those athletes with the highest navigational IQ levels.”

Another example was at the 20.2 km Distance Swim Challenge in Southern California where a classic race developed between Olympic marathon swimmers Mark Warkentin and Ky Hurst and FINA World Championship swimmer Brendan Capell. In the video below, Warkentin gives a hint of the bodysurfing moves and advantages that Hurst had going in and out of the surf during the transitions. “Navigational IQ also comes into play during coastal swims when there is surf. Experienced swimmers know how to use the movement of water near the coast and in the surf zone to their advantage. A few of them even do side-dolphining and other techniques in the surf.

Others like Maarten van der Weijden and Haley Anderson also know how to get in and out of feeding stations quickly during professional marathon swims,” says Munatones. “Navigational IQ can also mean avoiding physicality when going around turn buoys and drafting in precisely the most optimal position – and perhaps few athletes utilized this skill so successfully and so often like Larisa Ilchenko of Russia during her peak years.”

Lewis Pugh also knows that navigational IQ is also essential for solo swimmers – and pioneering swims in particular. “It starts with choosing the best conditions for your skill set. Most swimmers look for flat, calm seas. I love downwind swimming. That is where if you can handle the wind and chop, one can gain huge advantages. When I swam the length of the English Channel in 2018, it was high wind days where we made significant distance.”

Lewis also kayaks in the open ocean,” observed Munatones. “So he understands and values the advantages of railroading on ocean swells. That is when a swimmer uses the power of the ocean swells and wind-generated waves that are heading in the same general direction of the swimmer to gain speed and distance. Kayakers like Lewis and surfers like Ky Hurst instinctively understand this dynamic advantage in the open water.

Martin Goodman swimming to Robben Island from 3 Anchor Bay in South Africa, together with Roger Finch and Theodore Yach with the help of Derrick Frazer is also a swimmer who takes advantage of railroading in the ocean – see below.”

Copyright © 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones