Sensory Deprivation In The Open Water

Sensory Deprivation In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

In the open water, sensory deprivation is not a choice…it is just a cold, hard fact.

Swimmers cannot see far in the water and can hear even less.

Even sighting is tough: most of the time with their eyes only centimeters above the surface of a dynamic body of water, their views are often blocked by the ocean swells, the sun’s glare or the splash of someone’s kick in front of them.

With ear plugs in their ears and a swim cap over ears, audio perception is limited.

And what they see almost never changes once they get beyond the surf and coral reefs. In swims in tropical seas, the open water swimmer sees an almost endless blue below them with various hues and shades depending on the sun’s position. In swims in more temperature locations, the open water swimmers see a dark green or gray that often does not extend beyond 2-3 meters below.

What the swimmers hear most definitely does not change, the splish-splash of their rhythmic arm stroke, except for an occasional shout from a coach, crew or official or, if they are very lucky, the whistle or dolphin or whales. This is why a wink, smile, nod, wave, signal or any gesture from a kayaker or support crew during an open water swim means so much to an open water swimmer.

Swimmers and their relationship with their support crew and escort boats are similar to the relationship between an infant and mother. The swimmer/child cannot exist without the crew/mother and all nutrition/direction/protection come from the boat/mother. This may be why the term, Mother Ship, has so much meaning for a marathon swimmer.

Photo of Penny Palfrey by Spike.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association