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Monday, January 30, 2012

Shaving Down In The Open Water Swimming World - Part 3

HUNTINGTON BEACH, California. One size definitely does not fit all in the open water swimming world. From training habits to feeding, open water swimmers follow an exceeding wide range of parameters.

And shaving down is no different.

An online roundtable discussion was conducted and the information-sharing was fascinating.

International Swimming Hall of Fame and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Murphy (shown on left) who may has spent the most amount of cumulative time swimming in cold water than anyone else in the world kicked off the discussion.

"Because of [my] body hair, lanolin/woolfat tends to stick to my back and may do for me what it does for a sheep on a cold, windy hillside. Below the water line, I don't think it makes much difference as proved by the fact I don't use lanolin any more and my first swim without it was my fastest England-France."

Kevin brings up a point that many channel swimmers know well from their personal experiences. "I don't think body hair in itself makes any difference when it comes to preserving body heat in water. It does not provide sufficient barrier - I don't know anybody who's got hair thick enough to risk being shot for their fur. By the same token, I doubt that shaving down makes any real difference to heat retention although it will undoubtedly make the skin more sensitive."

And the aftermath is another issue for some. "I've never been brave enough to shave down," said Kevin. "I know that even if it knocked ten minutes off my time for a Channel swim, it wouldn't be worth the discomfort of it growing back."

Dover Solo author Marcia Cleveland addressed other body part. "When I swam the English Channel, I didn't put a razor to my legs for 2-3 months beforehand. But I regularly shaved my armpits, due to chafing. Water temperatures and an individual's acclamation to the temperature matter. But, I know from experience, don't give yourself a dry shave and then swim in salt water."

Dr. Jim Miller, a member of the FINA Sports Medicine Committee, explains how shaving can help in competitive situations, "When you remove the top layer of epidermis and expose hair follicles. This is why some feel colder with a fresh shave. [On one hand], human hair is not dense enough to really retain heat in cold or warm water. However, we cannot undervalue how the athlete perceives their environment."

When talking about competitive athletes, the discussions took on a serious tone because seconds do matter at among the fast elite. Dr. Miller explains, "After shaving, you get an increase in your feel of your arm and leg positions in the water. This can become important since it results in the athlete having a better sense of their stroke. This also helps when the athlete is attempting to stay loose and hang with the pack using an efficient strong, but easy, stroke as well as when the pace picks up. Remember, their stroke will already be affected by the salinity since their body position in the water will change also."

Kevin describes the advantages of shaving. "If I were in the 10km Olympic event and split-seconds were important, I'd be prepared to shave down. The advantage might only by psychological, but it would be an advantage all the same."

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Stéphane Lecat of France agrees for the competitive athletes. "Shaving down is good for competitive open water swimmers. It enhances your sensation and the feeling is much better after shaving [whether you are racing in] the pool or open water. I shaved down for my English Channel swim - my legs and arms only. When I swam the Channel, the water was not so cold. I also shaved for trials and international competitions."

But he also acknowledged that shaving is not for everyone. "Shaving down is not necessary for masters swimmers. While the sensation and the feeling of the water are better for me, it is very personnel and some swimmers lost their feeling."

Bill Ireland, a prolific swimmer from Southern California, understands the competitive angle. "I have seen open water swimmers who have shaved for races, not frequently but occasionally. I have never done it, but I haven't shaved for a race since Nationals in 1981 - and I doubt if I ever will again. When I have seen people do it, its always been in warmish water and swimmers who were highly competitive."

Jim McConica, an accomplished channel swimmer and extraordinary world-class pool swimmer, is flexible. "Shaving down all depends on the water temperature. One is certainly faster after shaving, but you will be colder. During my English Channel swim, I clipped only. I did get cold as the water temp during my swim was down to 56°F."

Others are quite clear on their standard procedures. "The only thing I shave, and ever have shaved, is my face. I’ve never been competing at a level where hundredths of a second make a difference and, in any case, I don’t have much to shave. On longer swims I do get some friction burns around my shoulders if I’m not clean shaven," said Simon Griffiths, publisher of H2Open Magazine.

Kevin knows well the potential downside of facial hair. "What I have found is that if I have even a slight stubble on the chafing points around my neck it quickly becomes a problem. Dead smooth is okay. Hair or a beard is okay. A stubble isn't and the problem is that during a long swim it might start off smooth but the stubble has time to grow."

Bill agrees. "I worry about shaving my face when I am without a beard because my shoulder rubs my chin when I swim. In salt water if I am not freshly shaven, I get a rash. Even if I am freshly shaven, I still get a rash if I am in the water for more than 90 minutes. On the other hand, pools and lakes are no problem. When I was on our Catalina Channel relay, I took along some shaving equipment so I could shave before I swam again. I may not have a 5 o'clock shadow but I do have a 3:00 am o'clock shadow."

Channel swimmer Mike Shaffer understands both sides of the issue. "Aside from shaving my face to avoid shoulder chaffing, I have never shaved for an open water swim. However, if it was a big race like Olympic or World Championships or a national 5K, 10K or 25K championship, I probably would shave my full body. For cold open water swims, where time is really not the issue and survival and completion are the goals, I like to have hair since it makes me feel warmer. It may only be mental, but it seems real...like 0.5-1°F."

Oceans Seven swimmer Darren Miller concurred. "I feel the advantage of shaving in competition is more of a psychological advantage than a physical one. When I am prepping for a marathon swim or pool competition, there is not a better feeling than to be tapered, shaved and gliding through the pool, or open water when you are at your peak. Shaving is one step in the process of mentally preparing for competition, because it gives me peace of mind knowing that I am doing everything I can to prepare for the battle ahead. It allows you to get into the necessary zone to be physically and mentally prepared to compete at your best."

Dr. Lyle Nalli knows his priorities. "Over the years I have never felt the need to shave down. Keeping warm was a priority."

Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming member Jim Barber agrees on priorities and needs of the various demographic groups in the open water swimming world. "Shaving down is good for those at the upper end of competition and competing for seconds in a race. It engages the mind for mental preparation. Your skin is sensitive in the shorter races and you can feel it in the pool competitions for races under 1500. [But] in the open water, the sensation goes away and it's business as usual.

If you are at the top end of your [masters] age group and you are in your prime, shaving will help. But beyond [the age of] 40, shaving down does not give you the advantage that you think it does. I didn't shave for my channel swims (English or Catalina). I never shaved for solos
."

Darren concurred. "I do not want to remove the top layer of skin by shaving, since I had memories of being cold much quicker in pool competition when I had shaved my entire body. Anyone who has swum the English Channel knows of the water temperature.

Prior to my English Channel and Catalina Channel swims, I chose to clip my body hair with a pair of electric clippers so the channel grease would be able to stick better. Yet I did not remove the top layer of skin so I would not get cold as fast. I had to take every advantage I could to help, as I only had access to 82°F lakes and rivers prior to going over to England.

But for the Molokai Channel due to the warm water, I chose to shave my entire body because I was only using channel grease in specific areas prone to chafing. The temperature of the water was not an issue in Hawaii, therefore shaving the top layer of skin was not a problem in regards to getting cold
."

But leave it to International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductees Sally Minty-Gravett of Jersey and Ned Denison in Ireland to sum up what most open water swimmers think and do. "I would imagine staying hairy for big open water swims. It keeps you warmer," said Sally. "It’s only pool sprinters and triathletes who really need to ‘shave off’ milliseconds."

"I have never shaved for the open water," said Ned, a former water polo goalie. "I only shaved once before - for the national water polo national championships...and we lost."

Part 1 of this 3-part series on shaving down is here. Part 2 of this 3-part series on shaving down is here. The introduction to the 3-part series is here.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source

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Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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