What Questions To Ask Open Water Swimmers?

What Questions To Ask Open Water Swimmers?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When swimmers ask us about a difficult swim or a long swim or an unprecedented swim, we ask them in return a variety of questions that include the following. Their detailed answers are quite telling about their comprehensive preparations.

1. Logistics
a. Have you planned the logistics of the swim?
b. Is the swim in a domestic or foreign location?
c. Can you speak and read the language spoken by local people?
d. Have you or will you visit the location before the swim?
e. What is the planned and alternative start and finish locations of your swim?
f. How do you get to the start or from the finish?
g. Do you have a window of dates or alternative dates in the case of bad weather/conditions?
h. Have you prepared for all kinds of what if scenarios (through extensive planning or just hoping for the best)?

2. Safety
a. What safety protocols are necessary?
b. What emergencies might occur?
c. In an emergency, what are the protocols to evacuate you and your escort team?
d. Do you have anyone with medical or emergency services experience on your escort team?
e. Who makes the call to terminate the swim?
f. What are the conditions in which the swim is terminated?

3. Finances
a. How is your swim financed?
b. Is your swim self-funded or family-supported or corporate-sponsored or is it a charity swim?
c. Can you pay for everything that is necessary to safely complete the swim?

4. Escort Team
a. Who is on your escort team?
b. Do they have sufficient experience or do they lack actual open water swimming experience?
c. Is your team well-coordinated and supportive of your goals?
d. Is there a clear decision-making structure?
e. Does everyone have clearly defined roles?
f. Will you have pace swimmers or kayakers?

5. Escort Pilot & Navigator
a. Who is your escort pilot and navigator?
b. Do they have sufficient experience or do they lack experience?
c. Does the pilot live and work in the local area?
d. What is/are the size, type and number of escort boat(s)?
e. Does the boat have sufficient equipment including communications?

6. Governing Body
a. Is there a governing body in the body of water?
b. Do you have observers – either independent or from the governing body?
c. Who will prepare what specific ratification documentation?

7. Marine Life
a. What marine life might you encounter?
b. What are the types and number of jellyfish?
c. Are there Portuguese man o war or box jellyfish or Lion’s Mane in the water?
d. What are the types and number of sharks?
e. Are there any poisonous fish, orcas, alligators, hippos, leopard seals, needle fish, etc.?
f. Are there coral reefs along your course?

8. Distance
a. What is the distance of the swim?
b. What is the range of your time in the water (minimum and maximum estimates)?
c. Is the actual distance and time predictable or unpredictable?

7. Conditions
a. What are the possible conditions during the swim?
b. What might be the wind direction and speed during your swim?
c. What might be the size and direction of the waves and ocean swells during your swim?
d. What might be the strength and direction of the currents, tides and eddies during your swim?
e. Is the swim in saltwater or freshwater?
f. Will you do any night swimming? Do you have experience in night swimming?
g. Is there any possibility of fog or lightning?
h. Will the water drop below 5°C or 10°C or 15°C or rise above 20°C or 25°C or 30°C?

8. Temperatures
a. What are the expected water and air temperatures?
b. Are you prepared to handle the cold and deal with hypothermia?
c. Are you prepared to handle warm conditions and deal with hyperthermia?
d. Will you encounter variable air or water temperatures during the swim?

9. Physical Training
a. What are your physiological (pool swimming + open water swimming + dryland training) preparations?
b. Is your physical training sufficient or lacking?
c. Is your training appropriate or inappropriate for the body of water where you will swim?
d. Are you injured or have you been injury-free during your training?

10. Mental Training
a. Are you mentally prepared to handle everything that you might face?
b. Have you spoken with swimmers who have swum in this body of water?
c. What are your life experiences to handle this swim?
d. What are your open water swimming experiences?
e. Do you have any (dryland) endurance sports experiences that you can draw from during your swim?

12. Willpower
a. Do you have the deep-seated passion, commitment and willpower to complete your swim?
b. Do you have an absolute need to train for and complete this swim or is your motivation a long-held desire or a wish to add to your bucket list of swims?
c. Where does this swim rate among all your other life/work/family priorities and responsibilities?
d. Is your family, spouse or partner supportive of your training and attempt?

If the swim is a tandem swim, a stage swim or a relay swim or professional marathon swim, then additional questions are in order for each of the swimmers and crew members and pilot(s).

Photo shows Kate Steels-Fryatt acclimating herself in Snowdonia, Wales.

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Steven Munatones