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Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Private Thoughts On Swimming With Sharks
Is it nature or is it nurtured?
Why is it that I think of sharks when I am swimming in the ocean, far from shore? What brings them to mind? What causes the thought to suddenly pop into my head?
Alone with my thoughts with my head facing downwards, I occasionally ask myself, "What do I do if I see a shark? What do I do when I see it coming at me from the depths? What do I do if I suddenly see a huge set of wide open jaws just about to take a chomp out of me?"
After talking with shark divers and seeking the advice from those who have free dived among the most dangerous of the apex predators, I know what I am supposed to do in a shark encounter, but am I brave enough to do it? Would I have the gravitas to react properly? Or would I panic with a fin in the vicinity? Would I be able to face head-on a shark in the open ocean with a calm, composed demeanor? Or would I do exactly what you're not supposed to do if I were the object of a shark's desire?
I fear that fear would overwhelm me. Try as I might to convince myself that I am a warrior, a courageous soul capable to downplaying my fear, I fear that I would react worse than mere freezing up. It is highly probable that I would panic and thrash about, swimming away like a crazed madman. I know it is best to spread out my arms and legs and appear as big as possible while keeping an eye on the shark and maintaining a focused state of mind with relaxed heart rate. But I fear that measured reaction is inconsistent with my natural instincts.
I hear of many open water swimmers who would face the shark, punch the shark like Gary Hall Jr. did or swim calmly amid Great White Sharks like David Blaine did (shown below).
"You have to remain calm," explained Blaine. "Because they can sense your fear."
But that is most probably not me.
Is this reaction to sharks natural? Am I genetically wired to fear sharks when swimming in the open ocean, especially off the coast of California, Hawaii or Florida or South Africa or Australia when sharks are known to exist? Try as I might to replay a shark encounter in my head, and I come to the same sad realization that I am no Penny Palfrey. No way, no how could I view a massive Great White Shark swim below me and immediately think, "How majestic...how beautiful..." No way, no how do I keep swimming like Michael Spalding without a thought of getting out of the water. No way, no how does my heart rate not spike or my breath not be taken away unlike the brave composure of Hawaii's Triple Crowner Michael Miller. It goes without question that no way, no how do I remain in the water knowing that I share the environs with what is commonly described as the perfect predator.
Palfrey tells of her experience, "I could still see the bottom but cruising right below me was a Great White Shark. I looked, instinctively took my regular breath, then looked back again, yes it was a shark, yes it was a Great White Shark. It was majestic. I was in awe of this huge, graceful creature beneath."
She faced the shark with reverence and awe. I would swim next to a Great White Shark with fear and dread.
Are these thoughts and assumptions environmentally influenced? Is my fear generated because of photos and videos that I have seen? Are my reactions nurtured by movies and television shows? Did the viewing of shark movies scar my thought process for life? Does a decade of Shark Week programs influence my mindset as an open water swimmer? Does modern media dictate a life of fear of sharks when I know the chances of ever experiencing a shark encounter are nearly zero?
Which is true: genetic make-up that is instinctively fearful of sharks or an environmentally-generated fear of sharks due to popular media? Whichever it is, I think of sharks while swimming out in the ocean. These thoughts are not enough to stop me from venturing beyond the waves, far from shore, but they remain in my head just as surely as the tides flow.
A misplaced mindset? Perhaps.
Illogical imagination? Possibly.
If I encountered a shark when swimming alone, how would I react? If I encountered a shark when swimming with a group, how would others react? Would the men act manly...or would the women? Would the young panic...or be prepared? Would the veterans react heroically with confidence and composure...or not?
And keep swimming along.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference
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
Swim Across the English Channel...
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Open Water Swimming Magazine
Open Water Swimming MagazineThe 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 SwimmingAn 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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