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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

World's Largest Open Water Swimming Celebration

Of the World's Top 100 Open Water Swims, the Sun Moon Lake International Swim stands out for its size and popularity.

But the location of the mass participation swim - Taiwan - is far away from the world's traditional centers of competitive open water swimming of England, Argentina, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Canada and South Africa.

The 3.3K Sun Moon Lake International Swimming Carnival crosses one side of Sun Moon Lake to the other side, where everyone must swim between the course markings. The event is held in September in Taiwan's largest lake (called Jih Yueh Tan in Taiwanese), located in the middle of the country. The venue is a beautifully tranquil lake at 760 meters (2,493 feet) altitude.

The Sun Moon Lake International Swimming Carnival is not a competitive timed race, but rather a mass participation cross-lake swim with an incredible 25,888 registered swimmers in 2009. It is undoubtedly the world’s largest mass participation open water swimming event that safely gets everyone off by using different start groups for individuals of all ages and abilities.

Most swimmers come from all over Taiwan, but several thousand swimmers also visit from mainland China and an increasing adventurous handful come from Europe and the Americas.

The event is well-organized fun swim where many people travel and camp overnight, sleeping in their vehicles lakeside near the start. With so many thousands of participants, the race committee organizes some special features. For example, there is a ferry to transport the swimmers from the finish back to the start. With over 25,000 swimmers at the start, orderliness and timeliness are critical.

The organizers give each group of 100-200 swimmers a number on the morning of the event with an approximate start time. Each group of 100 - 200 swimmers enters the water at a time with the first group heading off at 7:00 am and last group starting around 11:00 am.

The participants are required to use a red float/buoy that can be rented for approximately US$3. Records are not kept on the names or times of the finishers, some of whom spend up to three hours floating across the course, enjoying the mountain scenery that surrounds the lake.

For foreign visitors to Taiwan, Blue Skies Adventures offers English-language guided tours to the Sun Moon Lake International Swimming Carnival as well as other endurance runs, swims, bike races and triathlons throughout Taiwan.

For more travel and logistical information, here.

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