What Is Acceptable In The Open Water Swimming World?

What Is Acceptable In The Open Water Swimming World?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

There are all kinds of swim caps available for competitive pool swimmers, open water swimmers, marathon swimmers, and triathletes.

While 99% of swimmers use standard latex or silicone swim caps, Headcovers Unlimited offers a vast range of swim caps for the competitive swimmer, the recreational athlete and fitness swimmer of all ages (see here).

Various governing bodies throughout the open water swimming community currently allow different types of swim caps of different configurations and thicknesses to be worn. However, during this year, the types, configurations and thicknesses of swim caps that will be allowed in different channel and marathon swims may be more specifically defined. Most probably, chin straps will be disallowed while bubble caps may also be outlawed for standard, unassisted swims.

While neoprene caps and double capping (i.e., the simultaneous wearing of two standard caps) are currently disallowed by many organizations and races, there are additional issues to consider such as cap thickness, floral caps, and bubble caps without chin straps. It will be interesting to see how the governing bodies make these determinations.

Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

What Is Acceptable In The Open Water?

Thank you very much for your hard work and planning. It is very clear that the MSF community does not recognize swims where the swimmers intentionally draft off the wake of a boat. It is most likely that any world record attempt or swim where there is intentional drafting will be heavily criticized and not recognized by the MSF community if this type of swimming is done. That being said, swimming in the wake of the boat has been done by generations of fast and knowledgeable swimmers, whether intentionally or not. And since it has been done by previous generations of fast swimmers (not all, but by some those knowledgeable in this area), it seems to me to be UNFAIR to PURPOSEFULLY avoid this advantage in a venue governed not by the MSF, but by the CSA and CS&PF especially since this type of swimming is not ruled out by the CSA and CS&PF. However, every member of the team and the pilot must ask themselves if they are willing to be seen as cheaters and their swim to be not recognized by the MSF community. Of course, the MSF community also allows jammers but swimming under the CSA banner will preclude the team from wearing jammers. Personally, I believe (as does every elite male pool swimmer) that jammers allow for faster swimming than traditional swim briefs, but the MSF community does not see jammers as an advantage. So in this case, wearing only briefs puts the team at a distinct disadvantage to the greater swimming community but is an irrelevant issue to the MSF community. Further, the previous record holders completed their swim without GPS. In contrast, this team will of course have the advantage of GPS and all other types of advantages including quick intercontinental air travel. (Note: I can tell you the story of the USA national team’s swim on another email.). But since the MSF community allows for GPS usage and does not distinguish between GPS usage and the non–GPS usage of the previous generations, this issue is irrelevant in the MSF community. However, it is reality that GPS gives this team a significant advanatge not available to the existing record holder. So as I see it, there is one major issue to clarify among the team and Reg: draft or not to draft? Draft and the record, with the advantage of GPS, is a possibility but it will be a certainty that the MSF community will be critical of the swim. Conversely, to not draft puts this team at a disadvantage that has been available to others in the English Channel. This email is too long, but those are my initial thoughts on some pretty fundamental issues. Heck, I think the swimming is the fun and easy part! I respectfully disagree and know that Trent is very well-aware of how moving water affects his forward propulsion. If I have the opportunity to train with Javier Gutierrez in Southern California this year, we can practice swimming right up close to the boat and benefitting from the bow wave. I think every competitive swimmer knows and can feel the difference in how much even half a meter in distance makes. Notice the difference in swimming between Damian Blaum and Trent when they are swimming side-by-side in the video that Donal made; it is significant. Personally, I like (rather ABSOLUTELY LOVE) the feeling of getting the benefit of a draft off a boat (or a swimmer in a race). The tactile sensation is very empowering and the incremental feeling of power and propulsion does wonders for one’s mindset. Of course, the more the seas are calm and the faster the swimmer is going the better. Hank Wise, Lexie Kelly, Matt Mitchell and myself have practiced this on many occasions. It is noteworthy that the observers of the Catalina Channel – from what I am told – specifically do NOT allow swimmers – especially fast ones – to draft in the bow wave of the escort boat. However, that same rule (and warnings) does not apply to English Channel crossings. I call this effect “railroading” – it is the sense of “skating” down the face of a wave like in bodysurfing. Typically the faster a swimmer is, the more benefits they receive from railroading or catching the draft of a boat. Surfers and body surfers and swimmers with a good “feel” for the water understand this feeling and can position their bodies and hand path most appropriately to gain the most benefit. This ability has long been part of ocean swimming and, to a lesser extent, marathon swimming in lakes. Professional marathon swimmers and veterans from Greta Andersen to Ted Erikson understood this phenomena decades ago. However, it was only until the MSF was formed that this knowledge become more widely known and criticized. The MSF community judged this knowledge and ability to swim straight and catch the bow wave to be unfair and unbecoming traditional marathon swimmers. Personally, I think of this as a learned skill just like railroading along ocean swells, the ability to bilateral breath, and the ability to urinate while swimming fast. Personally, because this ability to available to everyone, I do not think of it as cheating, but that is what some in the MSF community called Trent’s swim and others who have learned, practiced and perfected this ability. For example, let’s say, the ocean swells are moving in the direction of a channel swimmer. The best and most experienced swimmers take advantage of these ocean swells by kicking harder and intentionally swimming faster as they are being pushed by the ocean swells. In contrast, slower and less knowledgeable swimmers simply move forward at the same pace as they swim up and down through the troughs and peaks of the wave. In this case, I assume the MSF community does not judge the faster swimmers are cheating even though they are most definitely taking advantage of the water movement. In my opinion, water moves in various ways on a channel swim. If a swimmer is skilled and knowledgeable in taking advantage of that water movement, it should not be judged as cheating. That being said, the MSF community has judged swimming near the boat to be cheating. My point and question is that this form of (faster) swimming is acceptable in the English Channel and its observers, but that the MSF community will judge the swim to be unfair and unacceptable and a form of cheating. Would this definition of the relay be acceptable to the members of this team? Achieving a record is one thing, but the possible long-term damage to one’s reputation as a channel swimmer is quite another. It is a major issue nowadays (in the MSF community). Steve P.S. I am unsure if taking shelter from a pilot boat is unacceptable to the MSF community. I will ask. The entire video of Trent that I shot, since I prefer photography, is only about 5 /6 minutes. I just joined the bits together without any editing. Here is it. The individual segments are on my YouTube account also. I’ve always said that what Trent does is not much different than any swimmer taking shelter from a pilot boat and the expression surfing the bow wave, kind of exaggerates it. Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association