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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Is A Pirate Swimmer?

The open water swimming world and the channel swimming world have certain conventions that have been developed over time. One fundamental premise that mostly everyone adheres to is: Pay to Play.

That is, whether a swimmer participates in a short coastal swim on a beach or an English Channel swim, the swimmer pays for that privilege.

Fees in the open water swimming world are not exorbitant, especially relative to other sports. But fees pay for the overhead, safety issues, administration and other costs ranging from fuel to permits. Without the support of donors and volunteers, short swims or marathon swims could never be held.

However, some swimmers purposefully circumvent the norms of the sport: they are pirate swimmers. Pirate swimmers do not pay to play. In coastal or lake swims, they hang around the start and make a conscious decision to avoid paying the registration fees. When the gun goes off, they jump in at the start and join the other swimmers. They swim the length of the race and then peel off at or near the end. Their justifications include (1) no one is hurt by their participation, (2) they did not need the awards, (3) they missed the registration deadline, or (4) they just didn't want to pay. Their participation is, however, fundamentally unfair to the others who did pay and to the race staff who are usually volunteering their time.

If a race is organized, insured and sanctioned, there is significant effort put into the race with much legal and financial risk. Additionally, swimmers enter races to participate in a fair competition. They pay to test themselves against others and to get a time for a specific course. They earn the right to not be interfered with by persons who did not pay.

A wise race director once said, "Swimmers who pirate (or bandit) a race are like someone who takes a plate at the buffet but does not pay. It is similar to stealing from the vendor and taking food away from the people who paid for the meal."

Another race director who doubles as an attorney brings up a variety of issues. "It's a huge foul for several reasons especially if the event is not a public waterway. The courses traverse navigable waters that are only open to swimmers on the day of the event. Race committees pay a hefty fee to gain access, keep boats out, and patrol the course for swimmers' safety. A pirate swimmer is trespassing, using services he didn't pay for. But also, he could potentially invalidate our insurance when all swimmers are required to be registered with governing bodies, either full year or one day. A pirate swimmer also has not signed the necessary waivers, so if he goes on the course, gets rescued, or bumps his head getting in the boat, this can get us in trouble. Finally, by paying the entry fee, swimmer take on a certain level of commitment to take the event seriously, train and prepare. The pirate swimmer simply shows up and decides to give it a shot with a diminished level of preparedness, risking rescue."

Strange things have happened in the over 6,500 open water swimming events around the world. The Waikiki Swim Club once hosted a race where a triathlete used another swimmer's name and entry. She completed the race, but and afterwards fell off of her bike in the parking lot near the finish. The multi-sport athlete was going for a post-race training ride and used the parking lot that the race organizers had paid for a permit. She broke bones and then sued the Waikiki Swim Club. After two years she did not prevail, but the club volunteers spent a lot of time and money settling this issue.

The safety issue is a particular problem although many races are in public waterways. When a pirate swimmer, especially one who is ill-prepared to complete the swim, falters and resources are diverted to him, the overall safety element for others is compromised.

But some pirate swimmers claim that the cost of open water swims is too expensive. But a good portion of the fees goes to cover safety personnel. But at a different plane, what is the cost of maintaining safety and the value of everyone's health and welfare out in the open water where there are inherent risks?

All race directors depend on the goodwill of others to make their events work and provide safety coverage. There cannot be compromises or shortcuts - and fuel, boats, pilots, lifeguards are many times donated, but not all the time. Fees and sponsorship are what help cover the balance.

Pirate swimmers are especially troubling during charity swims where fund-raising for a non-profit group is the primary goal. But dealing with pirate swimmers is also troubling for race directors who are hosting an open water swim as a business. Whether the race is raising funds for a charity or generating revenue as a small business, race directors need to charge to cover their efforts, risks and to be able to grow their business and the sport.

Pirate swimmers are a threat to the beneficiaries and the company owners. They are responsible for delivering donations or value for the swimmers' fees. The greater the donation or higher the fee, the more the swimmers expect in return in general. In these cases, pirate swimmers are threats to the bottom line. But successful entrepreneurs know that they must not position the events or the sport to accommodate those pirates or even those who complain about costs.

But what is a race director to do? In the Great Swims in the UK, there is a chip check system that allows swimmers into the start pen. The swimmers are often asked their date of birth as a confirmation check. If they don’t know it, they have to leave the area and go to Information Desk to see what the problem is. Normally they have another swimmer's race number. They either are not allowed to swim or the race officials confirm their correct details are on the system. Then they go over the timing chip start mat before entering the water and a timing chip mat upon exit as well as one additional chip check system to make sure everyone has left the water effectively eliminating pirate swimmers.

Similarly, there are swimmers who cross a channel or do other swims where there are publicly recognized governing bodies. This can range from the English Channel to Lake Tahoe. While it is true that a vast majority of swimmers pay a fee to the governing bodies, there are a few individuals who cross a body of water without paying the requisite fees for a variety of reasons. They sometimes state that recognition by the local governing body is not important to them or that no one organization "owns" the particular body of water.

This is true if the body of water is all public property or public waters. An individual can swim from one point to another, pay their own way and not take from another entity. It is also true that if there is a recognized governing body, the swimmer can choose to not be recognized for their effort if they do not pay a fee.

But if these individuals then tell others of their exploits after they complete the swim, this action is against the norms of the sport. These specific actions to avoid payment and then promote their swim success are also fundamentally unfair to the others who did pay and to the governing body administrators who are usually volunteering their time.

Whether it is a swimmer who swims for free in a local coastal swim or a marathon swimmer who purposely avoids governing body fees, these individuals are referred to as pirate swimmers. While not necessarily illegal, their unwillingness to pay to play is certainly unfair and is a selfish decision that does not support the swim, governing body or sport. Their self-absorbed, short-term mindset runs counter to the spirit of camaraderie and collegiality shared among open water swimmers across borders and cultures.

Like the historic skull-and-crossbones flag that was flown to convey a message that the pirates on the high seas were outlaws who did not consider themselves bound by the usual rules of engagement, pirate swimmers boldly and openly do not consider themselves bound by the usual rules of engagement in the open water swimming community.

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

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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

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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.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

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Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program