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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Open Water Swimmers Are Left With A S.C.A.R.

Open water swimming in the desert is like going to the moon or winning a Nobel prize. Few people imagined it and even fewer achieved it.

But times have changed.

What was previously impossible is now deemed possible, especially in the open water swimming world.

Man-made desert lakes have long been an Arizona open water swimmer’s dream. As more swimmers discover the availability of these lakes year by year, the state of Arizona is becoming another open water oasis in the American Southwest.

Hardcore swimmer and attorney Kent Nicholas from Mesa, Arizona (shown above) is one of these pioneers who is helping develop more events and draw more swimmers to open water swims in the desert.

Last week, eight swimmers took part in the first half of the S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge. Two days later, the group of desert swimming marathoners traversed the length of two lakes, approximately 18 miles, in the Phoenix area. They will return to cross two more when the series resumes on May 18th.

S.C.A.R., which stands for Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt Lakes, is the brainchild of Nicholas, the desert dwelling swimmer from Mesa who created the series as a means to train for the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in June.

On track to join the 49 other members of the exclusive Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming club, Nicholas became the first man from the state of Arizona to complete the Catalina Channel (see interview below) and plans to complete the third leg of the Triple Crown in 2013.

Nicholas swims year round in Arizona lakes and with the Mesa Aquatics Club. As one of the founder of the open water group, Narwhal Overboard, he completed the first stage of S.C.A.R. with renowned marathon swimmers Janet Harris and David Barra.

At the beginning of the S.C.A.R. adventure, the original 8 swimmers divided into pods of two, each pod accompanied by a kayak. Local swimmers Gordon Smith and Shauna Nelson were accompanied by kayaker, Candice Nicholas. Kurt Dickson and Patrick Brundage were accompanied by kayaker Wayne Rich. Harris and Barra were led by Jason Walters. Meg Zajdzinski and Kent Nicholas from Mesa Aquatics Club Masters were accompanied by Scott Mara and Glen Coy on a motorboat.

After completing the nine-mile distance in Saguaro Lake on Friday in less than four hours, Barra described the experience, "The banks of the river/lake are lined with sage and saguaro cacti that alternate between open areas and tall canyon walls rising straight out of the water. The rugged beauty of this lake is breathtaking, and I was, at times, distracted...wanting to focus my attention on one feature or another. Still, Janet and I podded well together, stopping briefly every 30 minutes for a feed."

Harris similarly waxed poetically on her blog, "Canyon Lake lived up to its name--the walls rose up dramatically on both sides of the lake all along the twisty route from dam to dam. We even saw a big-horn sheep along the way."

Stay tuned for more desert swimming adventures, in lakes with water temperatures between 16-20°C.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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