World's Best Open Water Swims

World’s Best Open Water Swims

The world has more than 4,000 sanctioned open water swimming clinics, camps, tours, races and events in at least 158 countries.

The sport is growing like never before – and usually under the radar of national governing bodies and the mass media.

A list of some of the world’s greatest, most popular or challenging open water swims is here.

Nominations are being accepted for the annual list of the World’s Top 100 Open Water Swims. To nominate a race, send a description and photos to World’s Top 100 Open Water Swims Nominations.

Below are some of the most popular swims in the 2011 list:

Midmar Mile
• Location: Midmar Damin Kwazulu Natal in South Africa (one-hour drive from Durban).
• Course: Straight point-to-point race across Midmar Dam.
• Distance: 1 mile
• Date: Second Sunday weekend in February
• Description: The world’s largest competitive open water swimming event also has an associated a series of qualification swims throughout South Africa.
• Additional Information: Attracts swimmers of all ages and abilities, ranging from Olympic medalists to swimmers between the ages of 5 and 83. The event has recently attracted more than 17,000 entrants, a huge increase from the inaugural event in 1974 when 153 swimmers raced across the dam for the first time. Due to the large number of entrants, the swimmers are separated into 8 different races; each race is divided into 5 batches separated by 3-minute intervals; each batch wears a different colored cap to distinguish their batch. A chip timing system was introduced in 2008 to record accurate times for each participant.

Sun Moon Lake International Swimming Carnival
• Location: Sun Moon Lake (Jih Yueh Tan in Taiwanese) in central Taiwan.
• Course: A mass participation cross-lake swim with up to 22,000 participants.
• Distance: 3.3K
• Date: August
• Description: The world’s largest mass participation open water swimming event has different start groups for individuals of all ages and abilities.
• Additional Information: The attracts between 18,500 and 22,000 (maximum limit) swimmers to a beautifully tranquil lake at 760 meters (2,493 feet) in altitude, including an increasing number of foreign athletes.

• Location: Vansbro in central Sweden
• Course: River swim under the six bridges of Vansbro.
• Distance: 3K
• Date: July
• Description: Over 4,000 swimmers participate in the largest open water swim in northern Europe Vansbrosimningen with another 2,250 women participating in the 1K Tjeisimmet (race for women only).
• Additional Information: Envisioned in 1950 with 10 swimmers in the first attempt, Vansbrosimningen became a national race in 1956 and has been growing ever since, especially when the “En Svensk Klassiker” was added in 1972. Over the past 53 years, one woman, Margareta Rylander, was the fastest overall finisher.

Capital Classic – New Zealand Ocean Swim Series
• Location: Oriental Bay, New Zealand
• Course: Part of a nationwide series of televised, safe and competitive open water swims held on stunning beaches and major waterways.
• Distance: 0.7K and 2.8K
• Date: January. Series is held from November to March
• Description: Five-part series includes Harbour Crossing Auckland, Paihia Classic Bay of Islands, Capital Classic Wellington, La Grande Swim Akaroa, Sand to Surf Mt Maunganui and King of the Bay North Shore.
• Additional Information: Very well-marketed series has introduced and incorporated many event innovations including OceanKids. Most swimmers wear wetsuits.

British Gas Great North Swim
• Location: picturesque Lake Windermere, the largest lake in England, in the Lake District.
• Course: a 1-mile in-and-out-and-in course in a flat, scenic, but cold, lake.
• Distance: 1 mile
• Date: September
• Description: A very competitive race with several Olympic swimmers as well as the largest mass participation open water swim in Great Britain. Separate start for elite swimmers. Race requires swimmers to exit the water at the halfway mark for a run over timing mats in order to entertain the television audience.
• Additional Information: A 2-day open water swimming extravaganza that will draw up to 20,000 in its third year. Wetsuits are acceptable. Part of the British Gas Great Swim Series that includes the British Gas East Swim, the British Gas Great London Swim, British Gas Great Manchester Swim and the British Gas Great Scottish Swim.

Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim 2010 (Boğazıçi Kitalararasi Yarislari)
• Location: Istanbul Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara in Turkey.
• Course: From Kanlica on the Asian side of the Bosphorus to Kuruçesme on the European side of the Bosphorus.
• Distance: 6.5K
• Date: July
• Description: Organized by the National Olympic Committee of Turkey and started in 1989 with 68 swimmers, the Bosphorus has recently grown to 4,892 swimmers from dozens of countries.
• Additional Information: Bosphorus is the world’s most narrow strait used for international navigation and enables participants to claim they swam between Asia and Europe.

Descenso a Nado de la Ria de Navia (Navia’s Downstream Swim)
• Location: River Navia in Spain.
• Course: Swim downstream in a picturesque river.
• Distance: 1.1K (under 12 years old), 1.7K (13-15 years old), 3Ks (women) and 5K (men)
• Date: August
• Description: Started in 1958 when 14 swimmers swam 1 kilometer in a coastal village in Asturias, Galicia in northern Spain.
• Additional Information: Also serves as an official leg of the LEN Open Water Swimming Cup that attracts the top swimmers throughout Europe.

Rottnest Channel Swim
• Location: From Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island, near Perth, in Western Australia.
• Course: A challenging and extremely popular channel swim with over 750 support boats.
• Distance: 19.2K
• Date: February
• Description: Strong currents, abundant marine life, water temperature averages 21-22°C (69.8-71.6°F)
• Additional Information: Attracts swimmers between the ages of 14 to 72. The Rottnest Channel Swim informally began in 1987 when four men in their forties, sustained by water and bread, swam the channel. The following year, 12 people made the swim. By 2006, an online entry process was introduced where the number of entries for 2- and 4-person teams and solo swimmers was open for 7 days, attracting 3,910 entries. An electronic random ballot was then conducted to determine which 2,300 swimmers would participate. Solo swimmers receive an automatic entry; solo entries close on November 30th. Entries open the first working day in November and are only open for 7 days.

Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean
• Location: Lac St-Jean, Roberval, Quebec, Canada.
• Course: A crossing of a cold-water lake from Peribonka to Roberval, Quebec.
• Distance: 10K and 32K
• Date: July
• Description: One of the world’s most prestigious professional races with a long and rich history. Thousands line the banks to greet the swimmers at the finish. Water temperature and winds can very, but water temperature under 20°C (68°F) is expected. Offers US$40,000 in prize money as part of the global FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix circuit that always attracts the world’s best professional marathon swimmers.
• Additional Information: The FINA 10KM Open Water Swimming World Cup is also held. Elite professional marathon swimmers also compete in eight 1.25K loops in Lac St Jean for US$20,000 in prize money. Amateur events are also held.

Rei e Rainha do Mar Desafio (King and Queen of the Sea Challenge)
• Location: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• Course: rectangular loop course in one of the world’s most famous beaches
• Distance: 2K for amateurs, 7K for professionals
• Date: December
• Description: Televised live throughout Brazil with numerous cameras all over the course, including aerial footage. Over 2,000 amateurs and some of the fastest professional marathon swimmers on the planet compete on a loop course near the 2016 Rio Olympics open water course. Gigantic turn buoy, live music and a festive ambiance at the start and finish create one of the world’s best open water swimming extravaganzas.

Check out the entire list of 100 swims here.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones