John Batchelder Flies Through The Open Water

John Batchelder Flies Through The Open Water

Courtesy of Brian Suddeth, an open water butterflyer.

John Batchelder is a 35-year-old American open water swimmer and mathematician from Littleton, Colorado.

Recently, he swam butterfly for 32 miles of the 36.5-mile END WET course in North Dakota before he was involuntarily pulled out because of darkness. Batchelder is a member of Colorado Masters Swimming.

He completed the 2015 Horsetooth Open Water Swim 10 km marathon swim in butterfly in 3 hours 13 minutes. He followed the butterflying footsteps of Joe Bakel who was the first person to complete the Horsetooth in butterfly, but his swim was nearly an hour faster.

His swim is posted on the list of comparative speed for Open Water Butterfly Swims.

Batchelder discussed his butterfly open water swims with Brian Suddeth. “Honestly, I do not, and never had, trained specifically for long distance butterfly. Butterfly just comes naturally to me; it’s been that way ever since I first learned it when I was around 6. I swam a 500 yard butterfly once in high school practice, but that was as far as I went. I stopped swimming at age 17 to focus on academics.

He fast-forwarded to recent years. “I got back into swimming about 3 and a half years ago. I joined a masters swim team that has practices every day of the week, and I started swimming on average 5-6 times per week. It took me a little while to get my feel for the water back again, but a year later I found I was faster than I had ever been, and the butterfly just felt as natural as I remembered from my younger days. My main focus of my training ever since has been distance events, focusing on the brute squad events – 200 butterfly, 400 IM, and 1650 free.

Our masters teams occasionally puts together unofficial dual meets with another club, and I would swim fly mainly to show off, but also to kind of level the playing field with the other swimmers on the teams. Even then, I was still faster than most of my workout buddies. Then the swim-fly-fast postal came along (, and I started periodically swimming the various butterfly distances to register my times for each of the distances, and this was the first time I swam more than 500 yards butterfly, doing the 1650 short course yards and 1500 long course meters.

In 2015, I decided to do all the U.S. Masters Swimming nationals competitions, including all the open water events. This took me to the Del Valle Open Water Festival. I signed up for the 10 km marathon swimmer on Saturday and 1-mile race on Sunday as they were national championship races. While I was there I signed up for the 2.5 km race just for fun. When the 2.5 km came around, I was worn out from the previous races, so just on a whim I decided to pull back and swim butterfly. I completed the 2.5 km in 43:51, not really putting much effort into it. Here I realized I could indeed go so much further without really getting tired. A few months later, I decided to push my fly a little further, doing a 10 km swim in 3:13:10 at altitude no less, and still I found I wasn’t really pushing myself and could go further.

Then one of my club swimming buddies, Cliff Crozier, informed me about Dan Projansky, so that’s what got me to sign up for END-WET. I didn’t actually decide for sure if I would do butterfly or not until race day, as I knew the water conditions weren’t favorable. As with all my distance butterfly swims, I didn’t particularly train for the race. It always has been a spur of the moment type thing with me.”

Batchelder also explained his training for distance butterfly. “I do not specifically train for it. My training has always been for distance pool events, primarily the 1650 yard free. Distance fly has always been just a diversion for me, never a focus. Over the years I’ve come to accept that I cannot explain why I can swim butterfly for long distances and without any real training for it – I just can.

In 2014, he swam 4025 yards in a 1-hour butterfly swim 10 minutes after he swam over 5000 yards freestyle in an hour. In 2015, he did 100 x 100 workout. In 2016, he completed 150 x 100m butterfly.

And he explained what is next for his distance butterfly. “Well, now that I had one failed attempt at it because of darkness – not because I ran out of steam – I’ll have to come back to END-WET to complete it butterfly. I’m also thinking of doing the Arizona SCAR open water swims. For this year, I’ve got two 10 km marathon swims coming up in Colorado, but I’ll probably swim them freestyle. I am doing the swim from Alcatraz Challenge this year in August, and I do plan to do it butterfly, but that’s a short swim in comparison with what else I’ve done.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones