Ten Great Places To Swim In America – Part 1

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When we travel around the United States, there are certain locations where open water swimmers have created very warm and welcoming communities. These communities have both training and competitive opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.

1. Honolulu, Hawaii
2. San Francisco, California
3. New York, New York
4. Chattanooga, Tennessee
5. Clearwater, Florida
6. Austin, Texas
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Indianapolis, Indiana
9. La Jolla, California
10. Westport, Connecticut

Honolulu (Oahu), Hawaii

There is rarely a day where the beach parks that envelope the island of Oahu are filled with ocean swimmers from before dawn to sunset. With dozens of ocean swimming competitions of all types throughout the year, Honolulu is truly an ocean swimmer’s dream location.

From short 1 km swims in the tranquil venue of Ala Moana Beach Park near Waikiki to the mighty 42 km Molokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai, the range of swimming opportunities is vast.

Triathletes, channel swimmers, watermen and waterwomen are numerous. There is always someone to train with at every daytime hour.

For those who appreciate swimming among abundant marine life and beautiful coral reefs, Honolulu is the best.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco Bay with Aquatic Park at its epicenter is the heart of the Northern Californian open water swimming community. The waters are cool to most, but very comfortable to the vast open water swimming community that includes a few wetsuiters and many cold water enthusiasts.

With Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island within view, San Francisco presents a beautiful cold water alternative to its Hawaiian counterpart of Honolulu.

From simple swims around Aquatic Park to the always tough 30-mile Farallon Islands swim, the number of swimming competitions and solo swims is large.

Triathletes, channel swimmers, and locals who have been swimming daily for decades in San Francisco Bay are too numerous to count. There is always someone to train with at Aquatic Park and almost any other location around the area.

For those who appreciate swimming with many others in water below 15ºC for most of the year, San Francisco is the best.

New York, New York

Largely due to the unsung heroics of Morty Berger and his volunteer staff at NYC Swim, the Big Apple is the heart of open water swimming in Big City America on its East Coast. With dozens of short-mileage competitions ranging from Brooklyn Bridge Swim and the Statute of Liberty Swim to the longer marathons of the Ederle Swim and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, New York presents all kinds of opportunities and an eclectic group of accomplished and enthusiastic open water swimmers from literally around the world.

Outside of the NYC Swim network, there are also groups from CIBBOWS to Urban Swim that offer additional training groups and competitions that range from mid-winter cold-water advocates to mid-summer warm-water enthusiasts.

Triathletes, marathon swimmers (who tackle the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim), and locals who do everything from ice swims to relays are always available to welcome newcomers and visitors.

For those who appreciate swimming in an urban environment and the hustle-and-bustle of one of the world’s most renown metropolitan areas, New York City is the ultimate.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

The American South is rising to the challenge as an increasing number of open water enthusiasts are taking to the Tennessee River along the downtown Chattanooga waterfront or along the buoy line in Lake Chickamauga. The Chattanooga open water swimming community also gathers in Parksville Lake, Nickajack Lake, and Lake Oak away near the Whitewater section of the Ocoee River where the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games whitewater slalom kayaking events were held.

Not to be outdone by more northern venues, Chattanooga also offers a cold-water option in the Hiwassee River where the water temperature reaches a maximum of 60°F in the summer. Nickajack Lake is also a very beautiful place to swim.

For the veteran swimmers in the community, the Swim The Suck attracts everyone from those Down Under to locals [see video above]. But the Snail Darter and Chattanooga River Rat Race are examples of other races along the Chattanooga downtown waterfront.

C.O.W.S. also organizes races in Parksville Lake and U.S. Masters Swimming national championship races.

A few of the Chattanooga open water swimmers brave the cold air and water temperatures beginning in February and swim until November with a varied mix of like-minded endurance and extreme athletes including many former competitive pool swimmers.

Part 2 to follow tomorrow.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association