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Friday, May 4, 2012

Open Water Swimming Turn Buoys

Turn buoys are some of the most key elements of the open water swimming world. Inflatable, portable floating guide posts of the waterworld. They immediately indicate a point, a turn, a hazard, a shore, a current, a pier, a jetty, rocks or the finish on a loop course, out-and-back course or geometrically shaped courses.

In a point-to-point course or a solo channel swim or relay, it is possible to take navigational clues from the opposite or parallel shores or your escort (a watercraft, paddler or kayaker), but the vast large majority of open water swims use turn buoys.

Of all shapes, sizes, colors and anchoring systems.

Big ones that are impossible to miss and little ones that leave you thinking, "What in the world was the race director thinking?"

The standard buoy types include the Triangular Pyramid buoy, the Cylindrical buoy (used either vertically or horizontally), the Sausage or Banana buoy, the Spherical buoy, the Salmon Egg buoy or custom-ordered buoys of a specific dimension and shape. Each buoy requires a different anchor system based not only on the depth of the water and shape of the buoy, but also if the course is in a still, moving or turbulent body of water and if the winds are still or significant.

While most buoys are simple with either the manufacturer's branding on it or one simple color, more and more open water swims are using buoys with the sponsor's name or event name clearly printed on the buoys.

When experienced race directors are designing their course, they think about the size, shape and color of the turn buoys and intermediate guide buoys and determine what is best for the swimmer's ease-of-visibility and safety. At the same time, they balance the traditions of the sport where navigational IQ is rewarded with the increasing need for safety as the number of swimmers in each race increases. Not only are budgets affected by the number and size of the buoys, but also how many staff and volunteers can help set, anchor and remove the buoys on race day.

Open Water Source recommends that race directors consider a number of changes if it helps the swimmers identify the position they are on the course.

That is, unlike running or triathlon courses where kilometer or mile markers are arranged on the course, swimmers often have no idea how far they have swum on the course. Is it halfway? Are we close to the finish? How much further? are all thoughts that run through the heads of open water swimmers in a race.

Race directors can number their buoys (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, etc.) or place a buoy of a specific size and shape at the halfway point or with a certain distance remaining to help.

Color, size and shape standardization of turn buoys and intermediate guide buoys would also be helpful and in line with other sports. That is, large orange cylindrical buoys can be positioned at the turns and yellow spherical smaller buoys can be positioned along the course as guide buoys while different sized red salmon egg buoys can identify hazards on the course or the entrance to finish chute.

Just trying to keep the open water swimmers in line.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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Open Water Swimming Magazine

Open Water Swimming Magazine

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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The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

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An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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