An Ideal Location For Open Water Swimmers

An Ideal Location For Open Water Swimmers

When people think of swimming the English Channel, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most physically and mentally challenging endurance endeavors known to mankind, held in an inhospitable stretch of cold water under brutal conditions and strong currents with success only coming to the most dedicated and toughest adventurers.

Conversely, when many people think of Southern California, the adjectives of tough, harsh and brutal do not usually come to mind. It is the land of celebrities, Hollywood and superficiality with Disneyland, sunshine, skateboards and rollerblades thrown in. A place of multi-culturalism mixed with earthquakes and a puzzling array of liberalism and conservatism. But, digging deeper and researching the annals of open water swimming, we think of Southern California as the ideal place for year-round open water swimming.

One evidence of this fact is that the number of English Channel world record holders from Southern California have included Florence Chadwick, Greta Andersen, Lynne Cox, Penny Lee Dean and Chad Hundeby.

Not a bad track record of success, but there are six reasons why:

1. Relatively mild weather – both in summer and in winter – without humidity and without snow enables athletes to train year-round without interruption. This is especially true of the coastline communities throughout the Southern Californian basin.

2. Narrow band of water temperatures – both in summer and winter – enables athletes to train year-round without interruption, helping them to prepare year-round for swims in any of the Ocean’s Seven challenges: English Channel, Irish Channel, Molokai Channel, Tsugaru Channel, Gibraltar Strait, Cook Strait and Catalina Channel – or any open water swims of any length. The relatively narrow band of water temperatures ranges from a low of 55°F (12.7°C) in mid-winter to a high of 72°F (22°C) in the mid-summer with most months between 58°F (14.4°C) and 68°F (20°C).

3. An abundance of pools and competitive swim teams. There are over 20,000 very active (i.e., more than 5 workouts per week) competitive swimmers working out daily at hundreds of outdoor pools under the leadership of professional coaches throughout Southern California. There is a regular training program under dedicated coaches (both USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming-registered coaches) in every city throughout the area.

4. There are a handful of very focused open water swimming coaches who have shared information and experiences with each since the 1970’s. The area also has numerous very experienced paddlers, kayakers and observers who have assisted marathon swimmers and race organizers on innumerable occasions.

5. History breeds success. Swimmers expect to be successful while training in Southern California. With an area sprinkled with hundreds of former and current Olympic medalists, world record holders and coaches, the level of expectation to rise to the occasion every day of the week and culminate in success of race/swim day is ingrained in the mindset of Southern California swimmers. World champions who have trained in Southern California include Paul Asmuth, Shelley Taylor-Smith, Steven Munatones and Gerry Rodrigues.

6. A large number of open water competitions. From La Jolla to Santa Barbara, the Southern California coastline offers a number of swims and locations for open water enthusiasts to join with thousands of like-minded athletes, enjoying the sport for all its challenges, obstacles and benefits.

7. An overwhelming number of triathletes and extreme sports enthusiasts. “Talking shop” (about dealing with pain, successfully integrating training with work and family, buying new products or sharing endurance stories and training methods, developing the requisite mental attitude for success) is done anywhere and everywhere in coffee shops, organic food stores, over the telephone and online.

A nice place to live, a great place to visit, a beautiful place to train and a wonderful place to compete.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association