World Open Water Swimming Records

World Open Water Swimming Records

Open Water Source has put together an initial list of nearly 700 world record holders in the marathon swimming world (i.e., 10K and over) and the open water swimming world (i.e., under 10K in distance). Its record list includes the fastest times for men, women and relays, the first solo swimmer and relay to swim different waterways around the world, the youngest boys and girls and the oldest men and women to swim a particular stretch of water, and the most prolific (i.e., the most amount of times swimming a particular stretch of water).

While pool swimming is limited to butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle in distances between 50 – 1500 meters, there are no limitations on the creativity and locations where open water swimming records can be set, held and broken. The records are held by fast swimmers (e.g., Paul Asmuth, John Kinsella, Penny Dean, Petar Stoychev), pioneering swimmers (e.g., Lynne Cox, Lewis Pugh, Claudia Rose, Theodore Yach), endurance swimmers (e.g., Kevin Murphy, Alison Streeter, Michael Read, Marcos Diaz) and adventure swimmers (e.g., Skip Storch, Michelle Macy, Penny Palfrey, Dave Yudovin).

Many people claim that there can be no world records in open water swimming, but Open Water Source has a different perspective is different for a few reasons:

1. A long history of records has been established in the marathon swimming world. Not only have world records been well-established in the English Channel since the Channel Swimming Association was established in late 1926, but many other governing bodies recognize the fastest times in their local waterway (from the Cook Strait to the Strait of Gibraltar). Because these open water swimming governing bodies recognize records, Open Water Source believes it is a tradition that should be globally recognized, published and continued.

2. A long history of records has also been established in the open water swimming world. Not only have records been well-established in popular events like the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, but also at swims from the Cayman Islands (Flowers Sea Swim) to Canada (the Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean). Because these local race committees recognize records, Open Water Source believes their desires should be replicated at the global level.

3. World records are defined in other sports as the best global performance ever recorded in a specific sport regardless of conditions, circumstances or competition. Similar to the Guinness Book of World Records, Open Water Source collects, researches, confirms and publishes open water swimming and marathon swimming records of all types, largely depending on the certification of the local governing bodies. In particular, it defines a world record as the fastest time an athlete swims from one point to another (from start to finish). Because the conditions can never be exactly the same for any athletes – even for those who are in the same race together, the issue of different conditions is mute. The course distance is always measured as a straight-line tangent even if the tides, currents, waves and wind push the athlete off of the optimal course.

4. FINA and the 202 national governing bodies that are members of FINA reserve the right to recognize world records in FINA-sanctioned events. World records – or any records of any kind – are not recognized by FINA or the 202 national governing bodies at the FINA 5K, 10K and 25K open water swimming events, unlike the FINA pool swimming events.

5. Record-keeping is fun and motivational, especially to those who love setting specific goals and measuring themselves against those swimmers who have come before them.

6. Most importantly, it is wonderful to recognize athletes who have trained so hard, planned so long and sacrificed so much. All the fastest, oldest, youngest and most prolific athletes deserve being called champions and being publicly recognized as record-holders.

Eventually, the open water swimming world record list will number record-holders in the tens of thousands – a great way to celebrate the beauty and challenge of the sport and the determination and achievements of its swimmers.

Open Water Source has also begun a worldwide project to compile records by chronological age so that records in one-year increments will be recognized.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones