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Monday, June 25, 2012

An Ocean Swimmer Fighting Back

Doug Rice has been one of the fixtures of the ocean swimming community in Hawaii since 1975.

Always smiling, always up for an ocean swim no matter what the conditions were, the college educator was the ideal teammate and supporter of ocean swims. A fixture at the morning Ala Moana Beach Park crew near Waikiki, he and his partner Christine Andrews were at every group workout and local ocean event on Oahu. After 14 years working and swimming all over Honolulu, he and Christine moved to Maui in 1989 where they have continuously taught at Maui College.

But his world of education, the marine environment and swimming came to a screeching halt on January 21st this year. On a glorious Maui morning with characteristic rainbows over in the distance, Rice was cycling with his training buddies. After a tough ride up the volcano on Maui, he and his workout partners were coming down the narrow road. Being stronger in the water than his cycling buddies, Rice fell behind and was cruising down behind his friends.

In a split moment that he will never forget, he came barreling down the mountain hugging the guardrail closer than normal. The last thing he remembers is seeing his tire spin out on loose rocks as his tires were at an angle near the edge of the road. He yelled in terror to his friends.

Then utter blackness.


The next thing he knows, he wakes up in the hospital.

His friends told him that he flew over a guardrail down a steep ravine where his fit swimmer’s body was treated like a pair of socks in a dryer. Tumbling down the mountainside made of eons of lava rock, Rice had no chance. His momentum took him over the guardrail where he hit repeatedly sharp lava rocks. The sound of bone hitting hardened lava is terrifying. Fortunately, he lost consciousness, but he badly broke his left femur, shattered the bones in his right hand, severed his left collar bone and left shoulder, and cracked four ribs on his left side. To make matters worse, one of the broken ribs punctured his left lung causing a collapse of his lung. Besides the internal injuries, his body was a pocketed with head-to-toe of bloody scrapes, bruises and cuts. Wounded beyond recognition, his friends called for help and he was medevacked to a local hospital.

In a fighting spirit that is characteristic of the lifelong swimmer, Rice jokingly laughed how one gash in his cheek left a scar that blended in with his smile, "so no one can really tell it’s there." After recovering in the hospital on Maui for ten days, he spent another 20 days in a rehabilitation center. Physical therapy started in the hospital, including simple things such as learning to stand on one leg and getting in and out of bed.

Weakness was the foreign feeling Rice was unfamiliar with. "I was really weak from the operations on my shoulder, hand, leg and lung. A metal rod replace the broken femur, pins were inserted in my hands, and a metal plate placed along my collar bone made it really difficult to do simple tasks with ease. Just normal crutches wouldn’t do. Since my left shoulder was in a sling with my right hand was completely shattered, a special type of crutch was designed so I was able to get around on my own. A walker wouldn’t even suffice since my thumb and index were broken, and the three other fingers were splinted together."

But swimming was where he came from – and where he returned.

He started off simply, only kicking in a pool in Pukalani, Maui. Lowered in the water, the joy he felt floating on the surface was palpable. With that characteristically wide smile of his, the Rice of old was back.

Six months after his accident, he gains more and more strength and wants to keep ocean swimming. His ocean-swimming friends have helped him back on his long road to recovery. Swimming is a lifestyle rather than just a way to stay in shape. He continues his recovery and rehabilitation in the pool during the week, but it is more for convenience. It is the weekends that he really enjoys getting back into the ocean with Christine and their friends.

Their favorite place to swim is the Makena region on the southern coast of Maui. "An ocean swim is never dull; we swim over and with sea turtles, dolphins, manta and eagle rays, eels, and sometimes gets to see the less visible sea life such as sea horses. One of our sea friends, affectionately named Bruce, is a white tip reef shark. Sometimes he comes up to us and swims underneath us." Does he ever get scared or swim to shore? "No, Bruce is a nice shark and a bit shy. Bruce shares a cave with a turtle. He likes his fine dining; we sometimes see leftover carcasses of lobsters whenever he is around."

Rice and his merry group of Maui marathoners like to swim at a place called Slosh. "There is two rock walls facing each other with an opening in the front and back. The water fills up really high, and you can allow yourself to get carried into it. Out you go on the other side where it almost forms a waterfall." Fearless even with a broken body, but comfortable in the ocean, he also like to jump off a tall rock, about 20-30 feet by the Slosh.

He knows that he needs. "When a swimmer gets into an accident or experiences an injury, the best therapy is swimming. You always have to start out with whatever it is you can do. When I first got back into the water, I was lowered in the pool with the chair. When I was in, my first thought was now what? I tried kicking, but I couldn’t turn to breathe. I turned over on my back and kicked this way." Next, he tried sculling despite having his arm in a sling. After weeks of effort, he was able to get back to regular sculling and stretch his body just a little bit more. "Things can only progress," he says with a smile and wink.

A half year into his recovery, he was able to use a kickboard the proper way, with both arms completely extended in front holding the board. "This was a big deal." He is able to swim regularly now, but still has to warm up using the kickboard to begin his workout so he can get his body slowly moving. "Everyone’s injuries are different, and you just have to start getting more movement and exercise to get the heart pumping to get stronger and heal faster."

At the age of 67, his doctors told Rice he healed remarkably fast for his types of injuries. But he adds that, "being an active swimmer, as well as trying to be safely active as a form of recovering is going to help anyone recover faster than expected."

Courtesy of Mackenzie Miller.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

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


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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Open Water Swimming Magazine

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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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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.

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac

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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