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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Human Mind Is A Powerful Thing In The Open Water

From some people, Africa conjures up images of deserts and pyramids and wildlife. But the landscape ranges from the beautiful coasts of South Africa to the Nile plateau of Egypt, from the seaside in Kenya to the rivers in Gambia.

It is a continent of extremes.

Extremes made by nature...and extremes endured by man.

Fraserburg - a little dam in the middle of a desert in the middle of nowhere in South Africa - is one such extreme, made by nature and endured by man.

It is here that Ram Barkai brought his second edition of the Ice Swim Africa. But 2.0 was all about the extreme. All roads to the Freezerburg as the swimmers called the town were closed due to heavy snow. The wind was howling at 30 knots and the water temperature was ranging from 0.8°C (33.4°F) in the early morning to a high of 3°C (37.4°F) later in the day.

There were 12 swimmers who entered the mile swim with 19 swimmers in the 600m race. Even under these extreme conditions, 9 swimmers completed the mile - sans wetsuit or neoprene - in 1.7°C (35°F) water. 17 finished the 600m in 3°C (37.4°F) water facing 30 knot winds straight in their face.

Barkai described the mindset of these unique aquatic adventurers, "There was one solid common thread among us all – a sheer determination and an amazing focus to swim in these conditions. The conditions were so extreme that I was worried no one would manage. But [this] was a bunch of hard-core extreme swimmers who just swam, swallowing icy water every stroke, inhaling 0°C (32°F) water deep into the aching lungs and fighting the waves to complete their swim."

Watching the water safety team, soaking wet in the rubber duck and howling wind was also remarkable. They looked after swimmers one after another. The medical team was dealing with a conveyor belt of frozen swimmers. The before-and-after pictures tell it all - big brave smiles vs. frozen faces, tight lips, uncooperative legs and an icy daze in the eyes."

On the big day for the mile event, the wind died and the air and water temperatures dipped towards 0°C (32°F).

Unlike other sports, the pain, muscle and breathing discomfort, and fatigue of ice swimming happens right from the start. Barkai described the scenario, "Bang – straight into the deep abyss of pain and discomfort. Some came out with a frozen wee smile and some with a frozen glazed look. However, once dry and dressed under the blanket, everyone had the same look: staring at the abyss of the after drop roll roaster. The recovery is a critical part of every ice swim."

Tommy Kruger was in the second heat of two swimmers. They had to swim out to a buoy 300 meters off shore and back. "I was not at all worried by the chop on the water as I am used to swimming in an even bigger chop in in my farm dam in Grabouw. I was more worried how I would react to the ice cold water. I was expecting to take about 10 minutes or so.

As I dived in, I controlled my breathing reasonably well at first without a problem, but within a few minutes I was struggled to take a breath without swallowing or inhaling water. The choppy water was vicious and breathing to the left did not help. Breathing to the right was even worse. I was still coughing three days later from water in my lungs. I finished the swim in 10 minutes 46 seconds and was able to walk to the medical tent with some assistance. My body temperature was measured at 31.6°C (88.8°F). My recovery was very unpleasant and took about 30 minutes."

Samantha Hucke explained her experience, "Friday morning came with huge excitement and I think even bigger nerves, so I was up before the crack of dawn, piling all my boys into my car and tackling the long drive ahead to Fraserburg. About 30km outside of Fraserburg it was snowing. I was so ecstatic, and then the realization hit me that I am driving to do an ice swim and it is currently snowing. I really was thinking I must have a screw loose to have been talked into doing an ice swim by Tim Stiff.

After an unsettled night of little sleep due to nerves, Saturday morning arrived early at about 5:30. I was in heat 3 and Tommy was in heat 2. I went to the medical tent to change. I was so nervous, my stomach was feeling a little queasy. Marius and Tommy finished their swim and came into the medical tent. When I saw Tommy, I felt such a flood of nerves and insecurity. His eyes were big and he looked straight past me with a vacant stare and it took him a couple of seconds to respond to my question ‘Hey Tommy, you ok? How was the swim?’ He replied “kak”. He was quickly dressed and wrapped in blankets and hot water bottles. I asked him how the swim, on a scale of 1 to 10 was. He said 8.

I was so concerned now as to whether or not I should even bother to attempt this, as I had being training with Tommy for at least six months and he was much older, wiser and a stronger swimmer. If he was taking strain, what chance did I have?

I walked into the water slowly with everyone’s words going through my head, walk in slowly, and breathe slowly, don’t swallow water. The water was almost like I expected, but it took my breath away so quickly, that the next thing I knew I was gasping for air. Struggling to catch my breath and needing to really concentrate I started to swim. I kept bumping into Zani. After the third time, I stopped and waited for her to swim across in front of me so I could swim on. This affected my concentration but I swam on, trying to get my rhythm back and trying to not swallow too much water and trying every now and again to look for the buoy that I was swimming towards.

I stopped a few times to look where Zani and the boat were, and I kept thinking that I really do not want to get pulled out of the water! Suddenly I reached the buoy, and felt so completely relieved to have made it, I turned and headed to the flags on the shore. My hands and feet were completely numb and I was struggling to keep it all together. My arms and legs were moving, but I felt like I was not moving forward, so I looked towards the finish flags and then back to the buoy. The finish flags just didn’t seem to be coming any closer, but at least the buoy seemed to get further way. I stopped swimming quite a few times, a little disorientated and heard the guys from the boat shouting ‘Sam put your head down and swim’ and so I did. I eventually reached the shore in 13 minutes 30 seconds, and started to walk out. Everyone was screaming encouragement, though it seemed a little like a dream.

I went into the tent, got dressed, was wrapped in blankets and covered with hot water bottles and was giving some hot chocolate. My body temperature was around 30°C (86°F). At first, I wasn’t shivering. Apparently shivering would only start once my temperature reached 32°C (89.6°F). Within a few minutes I started vibrate violently from head to toe. My recovery took about 30 minutes. I walked out of there completely overwhelmed, grateful and in awe of my accomplishment. It’s really hard to find the right words to explain the feeling.

I now feel like I have joined an elite band of brothers and sisters and my accomplishment has left me with the thought that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to, and I suppose being extremely stubborn also helps.

Barkai, founder of the International Ice Swimming Association, will speak on their event and experiences at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in Long Beach, California on September 21-23. "I intend to take this extreme sport across the world and hopefully establish ice-swimming events all around. There are plenty of ice swimmers out there."

Discussions will also center around a strategy to get another open water swimming event into the Olympic program. "What is ideal is to create a 1 km swim in the Winter Olympics" - a perfect counterpart to the 10 km marathon swim in the Summer Olympics.

While the 10 km at the Summer Olympics is a test of endurance, tactics and speed, a 1 km ice swim in a mountain lake at the Winter Olympics would be a visually dynamic event that fits the mold of the extreme nature of downhill skiers, lugers and mogulists.

To join in with Barkai and other like-minded extreme swimmers in Long Beach, register for the Global Open Water Swimming Conference here.

For more information on getting ice swimming into the Winter Olympics, read more here.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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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.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


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."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

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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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An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

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Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program