Is It Really The Open Water?

Is It Really The Open Water?

There is good reason why open water swimming used to be referred to roughwater swimming.

When hard-core traditionalists think of open water swimming, they can imagine very rough, cold water in a turbulent ocean where aggressive sharks, numerous jellyfish, shifting tides, massive ocean swells and strong currents make for challenging conditions where there is possibility of hypothermia and all kinds of inherent risks (see 2007 World Championship venue below).

But as the sport of open water swimming expands, the number of venues used concurrently expands. And sometimes the conditions are as tranquil and comforting as a still lake of warm water in the doldrums of summer or a calm, measured rowing, canoe or kayaking venue.

There are 10 excellent reasons to hold open water swimming races, events, camps and clinics in rowing basins or venues, especially for inexperienced swimmers or triathletes:

1. The water is usually calm without waves, tides or currents and fairly good water visibility.
2. The water is free from marine life (e.g., jellyfish, sharks, stingrays) and usually very safe.
3. There are available facilities like seating, showers, locker rooms, offices and parking.
4. The course is measured (e.g., 1000 meters or 2000 meters).
5. There are straight-line buoys or lane ropes along the course with visible cable underneath the water.
6. It is easy to rescue the athletes if they are in trouble.
7. It is easy to take photographs and video for educational or promotional purposes.
8. It is easy to select a start and finish point.
9. Boats, canoes and kayaks are usually available for escort purposes.
10. It is psychologically easier for beginner swimmers to swim there versus the ocean or lakes.

There have been world championships and Olympic Games for marathon swimming that have been held in the rowing facilities (e.g., 2005 World Swimming Championships took place in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games rowing basin and the 2008 Beijing Olympics marathon swim took place in the rowing competition venue). Additionally, famous rowing venues (e.g., Henley Reach in Henley-on-Thames in England) are also locations for open water swimming competitions (see above).

The sport’s venues are as varied as the people who take up the challenge.

Photo of the 2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia courtesy of Dr. Jim Miller. Photo of the rowing venue courtesy of the Henley Swim Classic.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source