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Friday, September 7, 2012

Tragedies In Open Water Swimming

According to Open Water Source's unofficial survey of the global open water swimming market and its over 6,500 events and competitions, there have been 29 deaths in open water swimming competitions since 2009 ... and dozens of accidents in the sport. This data excludes the number of deaths that have occurred in triathlons or other multi-sport events.

21 of the open water swimming deaths occurred in what is generally considered to be warm water temperatures (over 27 degrees C). A majority of these deaths have occurred on land once the athlete is rescued; a few have occurred after the athlete stopped swimming at the finish and stood up on shore. The other deaths included athletes who have been killed due to a broken back caused by high surf, getting pinned under a boat, getting run over by a boat and other unconfirmed reasons.

It is highly likely that there have been other deaths among the open water swimming events around the world, but there is no organization that has the resources or mission to compile definitive information on safety in open water swimming competitions. Open Water Source compiled this information as an independent initiative (since 1999) as part of its coaching knowledge database. "There is always inherent risk in venturing out into the open water," said Steven Munatones of Open Water Source. "But as race organizers and responsible people learn more about the best practices in the sport and learn from each other, the sport will be enhanced and made safer for a broader range of individuals."

At the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, there are a variety of safety-related issues that will be discussed as well as additional exploration of how to enhance safety in the growing open water swimming world.

1. The strong belief that swimmers should be able to swim to their potential at their own risk. What this effectively means is that swimmers are, in some cases, encouraged to swim beyond their fundamental abilities. Discussion on the importance of a swimmer's condition and pace (as measured by a stroke-per-minute count) and how to effectively identify a distressed swimmer will be discussed by a panel of experienced open water swimming luminaries. "When a swimmer's stroke count start to fall significantly, let's say from 70 to 55 strokes per minute, there are certain physiological reasons for this and none of them are good," postulated Munatones. "When a swimmer's stroke count falls significantly, it is time for their coach to carefully monitor their condition through a variety of well-established means which will be discussed at the Conference. My mentor, Penny Dean who was the long-time coach of USA national team and English Channel and Catalina Channel record holder who will be on the panel, was a stickler for the spm count."

2. A preliminary report by a global swimming association has explored the possibility that swims in water as high as 32°C are not harmful.

3. The average age of open water swimmers is increasing as the number of successful older swimmers is increasing. What this means is that under-trained and overweight athletes are getting into the sport with the belief they are prepared...but they are not.

4. There is a growing proliferation of jellyfish in the world and a concurrent growing number of swimmers in open bodies of water and a decreasing number of sharks. While most people are most afraid and concerned with sharks, it is the jellyfish that are causing most problems with open water swimmers. As the number of encounters between swimmers and jellyfish grow, there will be some swimmers who have severe systemic reactions. Are coaches, lifeguards and crews prepared for these reactions? Some are, many are not.

For more information on what will be discussed at the Conference regarding safety, visit here and here.

These will be some of the open water swimming safety issues raised at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California on September 21-22 where over 4 dozen luminaries and race directors around the world will gather.

• How far should a swimmer, parent, coach, race director, pilot or crew member go in ensuring safety in the open water?
• How far do others go in ensuring safety in solo swims, relays, triathlons, open water swims and channel crossings?
• How far are swimmers willing to push themselves in solo swims, relays, triathlons, open water swims and channel crossings?
• At what point does a coach, pilot or crew member tell an athlete that (a) they should not start a swim, (b) they should delay a swim, or (c) they should call it a day?
• What protocols and procedures are put in place when extremes in water temperature and conditions present themselves?
• How does and should a race director postpone or cancel a race?
• What should race directors and governing bodies do when a tragedy occurs in a sanctioned race?
• What should race directors and governing bodies do when a tragedy occurs in a non-sanctioned race?
• What are the statistics of accidents and deaths in open water swimming events around the world?
• What requirements and recommendations are in place for channel swims in established bodies of water? What about bodies of water where there is no governing body?
• What kind of products really work with jellyfish stings, especially with box jellyfish and Portuguese man o war? How are these products applied before, during and after the swim?
• What medical equipment is used and recommended at an open water swim?
• What's a Shark Shield, Electronic Shark Defense System, MySwimIt, Swim Safety Device or prop guard?
• How are glow sticks applied? What colors are best to use?
• What are the advantages of a kayak vs. a paddleboard?
• Why should a coach have a whistle?
• How should crew members or an open water swimming coach be selected?
• How have some close calls been averted?
• What happens when hundreds or thousands of athletes are in the open water at the same time?
• Why is stroke per minute data important?
• Sharks: what are their behavior patterns? What basic information should swimmers, coaches, race directors, parents and administrators know about them?

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.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

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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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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