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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Camaraderie Of The Community, Open Water At Its Best

Elaine Howley has been giving all her life. A bone marrow donor and a former Peace Corps volunteer, her sense of generosity and altruistic unselfishness is evident in the open water. "Marathon swimming is all about helping the next swimmer to reach his or her goals," she explains with her characteristic cheer.

Head to the shoreline and open water swimmers are everywhere helping out each other online, onshore and in the water by paddling, kayaking, observing, feeding, mixing, volunteering, organizing, stuffing race packets, and supporting each other.

"For someone like me, the best way I can contribute to the sport is to help others along with the knowledge and experience I've gained over the years," explains the ice swimmer from Waltham, Massachusetts who was the 32nd person in history to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. "A lot of that information and experience has been the result of the efforts and assistance of other swimmers who were kind enough to help me. I wouldn't have been able to do any of the things I have without other swimmers and a slew of other people helping me along."

From the early years in the sport when Tom Burgess helped Gertrude Ederle in her 1926 attempt at the English Channel, open water swimmers have been giving back and helping others.

"I see this sort of "paying it forward" mentality happening all the time in open water swimming. It's something that comes naturally to so many members of the community, and that's part of what makes open water swimming the amazing sport that I'm proud to be involved in," further explains Howley. "I think as a group, we can be classified as nice people who care about others and want to see each other succeed. We're friends. We cheer each other on and make suggestions and give advice where we can. It's an amazing network of wisdom and support. It really is a community."

Whether it is sharing nutrition tips or lathering on lanolin before a race, open water swimmers have a deep sense of sharing. They know that others are experiencing what so few other humans have the opportunity to feel and see: the brisk coldness of the ocean in spring and fall, the tranquility of a calm lake at sunrise, the remarkable water clarity around a coral reef, the inner dread when a shark fin appears, the biting pain that comes with a jellyfish sting.

They care for one another, deeply. They hide little from one another, they confide their fears and goals with one another. "Whether you give back as a kayaker or crew person, a volunteer at an event, or as a mentor or training partner to another swimmer, I think one of the most remarkable things about this sport is the social bonds that keep us together and help us achieve as a group," Howley continues. "In this scenario, everyone wins. I'm not fast, but I know I've helped others achieve their goals, and that's almost as exciting and certainly as gratifying as achieving my own. Pilots, kayakers, training partners, family, friends all help us get to the other side each time. Without them, we'd never leave shore, we'd just be splashing in the shallows."

Kayakers, onshore volunteers, observers and documentarists are shown helping Howley and her colleague Jerome Leslie complete their ice mile under the auspices of the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association and the International Ice Swimming Association:



Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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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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