Open Water Swimming Safety Conference - The Agenda

Open Water Swimming Safety Conference – The Agenda

At the U.S. Masters Swimming- and Pacific Masters Swimming-sponsored open water swimming conference this weekend in San Francisco, there will be dozens of speakers and panelists discussing a variety of topics relevant and important to the open water swimming world.

Rob Butcher, Executive Director, U.S. Masters Swimming, will introduce a number of dignitaries including keynote speaker Shelley Taylor-Smith, the 7-time world professional marathon swimming champion who was recently named one of the top 50 iconic women in Australia.

The agenda, issues to be discussed and panelists will include the following:

8:40 am – What To Consider, Plan And Do In Open Water Events – An Overview From Lifesaving Professionals

B. Chris Brewster, President U.S. Lifesaving Association
Lt. Greg Buchanan, San Diego Lifeguard Service and San Diego Fire Rescue
Ralph Goto, Administrator, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division, City & County of Honolulu

9:30 am – The Inherent Risks of Open Water Swimming – Setting The Stage, What To Prepare For And Look For

Steven Munatones (moderator), Chris Sheean, Race Director, Big Shoulders 5K, Eric Juneau, General Manager, Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean, Ralph Goto, Administrator, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division, City & County of Honolulu, Jim Wheeler, Total Aquatic Management

Chris: You have over 800 people enter the potentially cold and rough waters of Lake Michigan for the Big Shoulders 5K, what are the primary things that you prepare for before your race to ensure event safety and what are top safety priorities during the race?
Eric: You have the greatest marathon swimmers in the world visit cold, rough lac St-Jean in Quebec, Canada every year. Athletes become hypothermic and you have a permanent medical station at the finish line. What are the primary things that you prepare for before your race to ensure event safety and what are top safety priorities during the race?
Ralph: You regularly oversee some of the busiest lifeguards in the world – from the famous beaches of North Shore of Oahu to races such as the annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim that draws over 1000 people. What are the primary things that you prepare for before your race to ensure event safety and what are top safety priorities during the race?
Rick: You have some interesting data as the National Statistics Coordinator for the US Lifesaving Association. Based on those statistics, what are some of the primary things that you recommend race directors focus on?
Chris: What worries you most from a safety perspective about the Big Shoulders 5K? What are some surprises that you have experienced over the years?
Eric: What worries you most from a safety perspective about organizing professional marathon swims? What are some surprises that you have experienced over the years?
Ralph: At the 2003 Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 361 participants had to be rescued from the water. What lessons were learned from this event?
Jim: What type of information and training is best to provide to race volunteers – both on the water and onshore?

10:30 am – Current Rules and Guidelines Used in Open Water Swimming – What Rules To Follow and What Guidelines To Use

Steven Munatones (moderator), Lynn Hazlewood, Open Water Swimming Committee Chairperson, USMS, Shelley Taylor-Smith, 7-time World Champion, John Dussliere, USA Swimming 2008 Olympic open water coach, David Robinson, Aquatic Specialist, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Marcia Cleveland, Dover Solo author, Race Director and Long Distance Swimming Committee Chairperson, USMS

Lynn: In the masters swimming world, U.S. Masters Swimming has devised a thick manual for race directors. What are some key safety oriented issues, points and procedures aimed at race directors?
Shelley: You know well how hard the world’s elite marathon swimmers push themselves. They swim extremely hard in cold water, warm water or rough water. But the same holds true for amateur swimmers. What guidelines should swimmers use themselves to prepare for open water swims of any kind?
John: You are not only an Olympic coach, but your roots go deep in age-group swimming. Are there any special rules or guidelines that coaches and parents should be aware of when first getting into open water swimming? You also know a little bit about the speed in which rules can be added to the rule books, correct?
David: There are rules written in rule books, but there are also practical rules of the nature. When an athlete, coach or parent head to an ocean, lake or river, what basic rules should they be aware of regarding open water safety?
Marcia: You have been involved with U.S. Masters Swimming for decades. Can you give us a brief history of how masters open water swimming rules have evolved over time to address issues of safety?
Lynn: If people want to get more involved in race rule administration, management or reviews, where should they go or who should they speak with?
Shelley: Overseeing a global professional marathon swimming circuit like FINA does is difficult. How difficult is it to create safety standards across borders? Should we have consistent regulations that manage the races even when races are in different countries, states and cities?
John: There are local swim teams, national federations and FINA. How should each of these types of organizations – local, national and international – work together to help improve safety standards and safety administration at the races?
Marcia: Thinking out loud, what kinds of rule changes might be necessary in the future, especially as the sport continues to grow and attract all kinds of newcomers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds?

11:30 am – Emergencies and Contingencies – What Should You Do When Disaster Strikes – Preparation, Communications, Logistics and Medical

Steven Munatones (moderator), B. Chris Brewster, President, US Lifesaving Association
Bob Placak, Founder, RCP Tiburon Mile, Mike Carr, Safety Director, RCP Tiburon Mile, Kate Alexander, Safety Officer, Flowers Sea Swim, Dale Petranech, Honorary Secretary, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame

Chris: As the president of the US Lifesaving Association, you have seen a number of emergencies from coast to coast and in all kinds of environments. Can you summarize for us what ideally needs to happen for the race officials and volunteers during an emergency?
Bob and Mike: You have hundreds of people in the cold San Francisco Bay swimming across a current. How much pre-race planning does into your event regarding safety? Do you change emergency protocols or procedures year-by-year?
Kate: Can you tell us what kind of safety preparation, communication plans and medical personnel that are in place for a swim that goes along the shore for an 800+ person start.
Dale: You were a key contributor to creation of numerous early documents at USA Swimming and FINA. Why do you consider the development of these documents necessary and what do you consider some of the major weak points in open water swim event safety?
Bo and Mike: You have hundreds of people in the cold San Francisco Bay swimming across a current. How much pre-race planning does into your event regarding safety? Do you change emergency protocols or procedures year-by-year?
Kate: You unfortunately experienced a death last year. I was there and saw and understood all that you and your staff did. Can you tell us what kind of safety preparation, communication plans and medical personnel were in place? Can you share any plans for the future?
Dale: How can governing bodies best interact with the local organizers to prevent emergencies from happening?

1:30 pm – Safety in Ocean Swims – Things to Consider in Ocean & Sea Events

Steven Munatones (moderator), Kaia Hedlund, President, Waikiki Roughwater Swim, Malcolm Cooper, Safety Officer, Maui Channel Swim, Lt. Greg Buchanan, San Diego Lifeguard Service / San Diego Fire Department, Joel Wilson, Race Director, Santa Cruz Cruise Swim, Dale Petranech, Honorary Secretary, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, Ralph Goto, Ocean Safety Administrator, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division, City & County of Honolulu

Kaia: The Waikiki Roughwater Swim experienced disaster in its 2003 swim where you had to rescue hundreds of swimmers. Can you describe the events of that day?
Malcolm: You are the safety officer for the Maui Channel Swim, an inter-island channel crossing where there are sharks, whales, currents, winds and waves. What kind of headaches do you face every year?
Greg: You help oversee the very large La Jolla Rough Water Swim near San Diego. Sometimes the surf is quite large and can be very challenging for many swimmers. What should race directors and swimmers consider when onshore surf presents challenges?
Dale: You observed swims from Australia to Europe including a Catalina Channel international race back in 1984. When an international race is organized for ocean venues, what kind of safety planning do you feel is required, especially when athletes and coaches speak different languages?
Ralph: You are responsible for some of the most risky ocean fronts in the world on the island of Oahu. What are the benefits of each different type of equipment that you use: paddle boards, kayaks, surfboards, fins, helicopters?
Kaia: Can you explain the communications protocols, equipment and procedures that are used at the world-famous Waikiki Roughwater Swim?
Malcolm: You oversee a race where boats and swimmers are spread out over miles and miles in the open ocean. How do you keep track of everyone? What type of emergency planning do you have?
Greg: What are things race directors, swimmers, coaches and parents should be aware of regarding marine life in the Pacific Ocean?
Dale: There are dozens of great organizations around the world – from the Channel Swimming Association in the English Channel to Swimming Australia. How can we and how should we all learn from one another so our entire community can improve its safety standards?
Ralph: What are some things for a race director or volunteer to look for in a swimmer BEFORE the race starts? If a swimmer looks nervous and the conditions are rough, what do you recommend for race directors and volunteers to do or say to these swimmers?

1:30 pm – Safety in River Swims – Things to Consider in River & Bay Events

Glenda Carroll (moderator), Dave Barra, 8 Bridges Race Director, David Robinson, Aquatic Specialist, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Jim Wheeler, Founder, Total Aquatic Management, Shelley Taylor-Smith, 7-time World Champion

David: You oversee river races in northern California. What types of rescue and safety equipment are preferred in river swims? In general, where should the safety personnel be located during river races? What qualifications should they have?
Jim: From your perspective, what should swimmers think about when swimming in rivers?
Shelley: Are there things you think about now as a masters swimmer as opposed a world champion? What must mature adults think about and consider when they start to do river swims where currents can be running fast?
David: How can river rescues be different than ocean or lake rescues?
Jim: How early do you recommend starting the planning process for river and bay events? Is this planning any different than ocean or lake events?
Shelley: Swimming in places like Manhattan Island is tricky and local knowledge of the tides and currents is critical. When you are new to an area, what do you recommend newcomers to learn and ask from locals?

2:30 pm – Safety in Lake Swims – Things to Consider in Lake & Reservoir Events

Steven Munatones (moderator), Chris Sheean, Race Director, Big Shoulders, Karen Reeder, Race Director, USMS National Championship, Lynn Hazelwood, Race Director, Jim McDonnell Lake Swim, Dick Sidner, Race Director USMS National 25K Championships, David Robinson, Aquatic Specialist, Sonoma County Regional Parks

Chris: You have hundreds of people of all kinds of ages and abilities swimming in Lake Michigan. What kind of turn buoys do you use and other navigational aids in the water?
Karen: You host open water swims high up in the Rocky Mountains. When swimmers compete at high altitudes, what should they think about? What unusual safety issues should race directors prepare for?
Lynn: You host the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim where the course is permanent and well-marked. How do you continue to make this event better? What are some possible safety improvements can you foresee in the future?
Dick: You organize the U.S. Masters Swimming 25K championships. 15.5 miles is a long way. When a race is a marathon event, what safety recommendations do you have for races that can last 6, 7 or 8 hours?
David: Water quality is an increasing issue not only for the open water swimming world, but also for society in general. In the state of California, are there any special water quality standards or procedures?
Chris: What safety issues would lead to a cancellation of the Big Shoulders 5K? Who would be involved in that decision? If the race were cancelled, how would you face all the swimmers who would inevitably complain?
Karen: I have a simple question for you: paddle boards or kayaks? Which do you prefer and why in escorting for lake or reservoir events?
Lynn: What do you recommend when dividing the field: men vs. women or by times or by ages? Is there a correct answer?
Dick: Food and drinks. That is a wide topic. What do you recommend for race directors to provide before a race, during a race and after a race?
David: Often we hear complaints that aggressive men swim over women. Then we also hear fast women can beat many men. So how do we properly and safely separate the swimmers in appropriate heats? Do you have any recommendations based on your experiences in northern California?

2:30 pm – Safety in Cold Water – Things to Consider: Hypothermia

Dr. Jim Miller (moderator), Paul Asmuth, Open Water Swimming Advisor to USA Swimming National Team Coach, Eric Juneau, General Manager, Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean, Marcia Cleveland, Author, Dover Solo, Race Director and Long Distance Swimming Committee Chairperson, USMS

3:30 pm – Safety in Marathon Swims – Things to Consider in Competitions & Solos

Steven Munatones (moderator), Paul Asmuth, Open Water Swimming Advisor to USA Swimming National Team Head Coach and 7-time World Professional Marathon Swimming Champion, Shelley Taylor-Smith, 7-time World Professional Marathon Swimming Champion, Eric Juneau, General Manager, Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean, John Dussliere, 2008 Olympic Open Water Coach, Marcia Cleveland, Author, Dover Solo, Race Director and Long Distance Swimming Committee Chairperson, USMS

Paul: You have done professional marathon swims, you have helped the American athletes at the 2008 Olympics and you have done masters races. What do or should coaches ask of their swimmers – of any ability – in preparation for open water swims?
Shelley: You coach triathletes and new swimmers to participate in the Rottnest Channel Swim – a rough swim in western Australia. What are the steps you take these swimmers through during their training sessions?
Eric: At the Traversée du lac St-Jean in Quebec, you use some special escort boats. Can you explain these special boats?
John: How much different is training for an open water swim than training for a 1500-meter freestyle, especially if you want to be competitive?
Marcia: Dover Solo, your seminal book on English Channel swimming is one of the most widely read open water swimming books in history. What is the draw to solo marathon swimming – especially since there is so much risk inherent in the sport?
Paul: As an athlete, you were tough as nails, but rather on the slender side. Yet you were able to handle cold water – under 60°F – for hours on end, especially when you finish a double crossing of lac St-Jean in 17 hours and across the English Channel. How does a slender athlete perform well – and safely – in cold water?
Shelley: Sharks, blue bottles, cold water – you faced it all during your reign. How important is your support team?
Eric: You have volunteers to support the professional marathon swimmers in lac St-Jean. What information or education do you provide these volunteers so they can support the swimmers well?
John: A coach prepares an athlete, but then when the race starts, the coach is onshore and the athlete is alone in the water. How really important is the role of a coach?
Marcia: How does one properly pick your support team? What are elements or characteristics or qualifications that you should look for in a support crew?

3:30 pm – Safety in Warm Water – Things to Consider: Hyperthermia

Dr. Jim Miller (moderator), Lori Bosco, Race Director, FKCC Swim Around Key West, Liz Tucker, USA Triathlon Race Director Certification, Ralph Goto, Ocean Safety Administrator, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division, City & County of Honolulu

4:30 pm – Tools of the Trade – Equipment Used in Races – What Equipment To Purchase, Borrow, Prepare And Use

Steven Munatones (moderator), Bruce Wigo, CEO, International Swimming Hall of Fame, Dick Sidner, Race Director, USMS National 25K Championships, Bob Placak, Founder, RCP Tiburon Mile, Mike Carr, Safety Director, RCP Tiburon Mile, B. Chris Brewster, President, US Lifesaving Association, Liz Tucker, USA Triathlon Race Director Certification

Bruce: The International Swimming Hall of Fame organizes a handful of races for swimmers of all ages and abilities. You have a new product that you really like. Can you explain it and show it?
Dick: How are radios and transponders utilized to enhance the safety aspect of your races?
Bob and Mike: You have over 800 swimmers in your races. How many kayakers, boats, radios and other bits of equipment that you use to ensure the safety of the swimmers?
Chris: At the professional level, what types of equipment are used by the leading lifesaving organizations?
Liz: What are the standard bits of equipment required of USA Triathlon-certified race directors?
Bruce: How can open water races around the world replicate the safety protocols that are used by the International Swimming Hall of Fame-organized ocean races?
Dave: At the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, GPS is widely used. What have you found?
Dick: What are some things that race directors may not think they need, but which come in very handy on race day?
Bob and Mike: You have a race that starts on an island and finishes on the mainland. Can you explain the logistics of getting swimmers between the start and finish? How did you improve over the years?
Chris: What role can the US Lifesaving Association play in the improvement of safety in the entire open water swimming community?
Liz: What are some issues that inexperienced race directors tend to oversee on race day?

5;30 pm – What Swimming Can Learn From Other Sports And Activities – How Do Other Sports Protect Their Athletes?

Steven Munatones (moderator), Dr. Jim Miller, renowned open water swimming physician, Liz Tucker, USA Triathlon Race Director Certification, B. Chris Brewster, President, US Lifesaving Association, Lt. Greg Buchanan, San Diego Lifeguard Service / San Diego Fire Department, Jim Wheeler, Founder, Total Aquatic Management
Bruce Wigo, CEO, International Swimming Hall of Fame

Dr. Miller: What can open water swimming learn from other aquatic sports in terms of safety and injury prevention?
Liz: Triathletes have to do 3 different sports and many triathletes consider swimming their least developed skill. What can the open water swimming community do to help improve the confidence and skills of our triathlete colleagues?
Chris: Your colleagues oversee the safety for surfing contests, stand-up paddling events, Jet skiing, boating, canoeing and all kinds of marine sports. What can the open water swimming community learn from these other marine sports?
Greg: From your perspective as a professional lifesaver, what are the key areas where you see race directors can improve or pay greater attention? What first-aid equipment should every race director have at race day? Where should this first-aid equipment be positioned – at the start, at the finish, on a lifeguard truck?
Jim: You travel all around the country, can you make any generalizations about open water swimming in the different areas of the country?
Bruce: You can promoted and organized a number of athletic competitions in some pretty dangerous sports. Can you tell us what you look for in terms of safety in these sports?
Dr. Miller: What can land-based sports teach us about open water swimming?
Liz: Triathletes are well-versed on hyperthermia. What does USA Triathlon research or provide in terms of information about hyperthermia to its athletes?
Chris: Do you believe there should be any minimum or maximum age ranges for open water swims, say of 1 mile?
Greg: For children under the age of 12, what concerns you when they enter the ocean or lake?
Jim: For adults over the age of 65, what concerns you when they enter the ocean or lake? What kind of safety programs do you put together for race directors or municipalities?
Bruce: Is the ratio of safety personnel in open water swimming appropriate given your experience in other sports?

7:00 pm – Maddy Crippen of the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation

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