Why Open Water Swimming Rocks

Why Open Water Swimming Rocks

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Mike Gustafson of SwimNetwork penned some great analogies when describing open water swimming, especially in relationship to pool swimming in his latest column in the SwimNetwork. He put a great spin on open water swimming, “The other version [of swimming] is the little mischievous brother. Unpredictable. Feisty. Sometimes violent.

You scratch your opponents. You elbow under the water. You do anything you can do to gain an inch or a mental advantage. It’s a chess game, complete with undertows, unpredictable currents, bothersome sea gulls, and cutthroat competitors
.”

For anyone who has done a mile swim with a mass start or attempted a channel swim, Mike’s words ring so true: unpredictable, feisty, sometimes violent.

His description of the sport’s Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality could not be more aptly written. When we observe the personable, attractive elite swimmers smile, hug and calmly discuss the course with their competitors before major races, we know that the cordial statesmanlike position of the athletes will immediately change once the race is on.

As he writes, “I imagine open water swimming is sort of like waiting in line for the iPad to hit shelves. You tell yourself when those doors open, you’ll act rationally and behave. But as soon as those doors open, you’re throwing elbows, dodging old ladies, throwing children into oncoming shoppers, tripping and biting and clawing. It’s a little chaotic. It’s a little nasty. And open water swimming makes for some exciting and completely unpredictable races.”

But just as fast as those game faces turn on, they turn right back off once the race is over. Smiles abound, cordial discussions ensue and the camaraderie of the sport continues to shine.

Watch these elite athletes from America, Canada, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Egypt and South Africa compete at the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships on June 4th and 6th which he so eloquently writes about here.

Photo by Javier Blazquez shows America’s Christine Jennings being squeezed by Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto, Australia’s Melissa Gorman and Germany’s Angela Maurer at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association