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Monday, January 14, 2013

Demographic Trends In Open Water Swimming

By all accounts, open water swimming is expanding in unprecedented ways. The number of events, the number of participants, the number of locations, the number of races entered annually by each participant, the number of women, the amount of pro races, the number of televised swims, the number of associations and organizations, and the number of people over the age of 40 are all measures that the sport are increasing.

While observers have pointed to the sport's inclusion in the Olympics, the expanding awareness placed on fitness, and the increasing use of social media as reasons for the sport's popularity growth, there is another demographic reason.

Baby boomers are taking up the sport in growing numbers. Injured from running, going through rehabilitation, in a mid-life crisis, between jobs, post-divorce, or just looking for something more mellow than mud runs and extreme sports, the mid-lifers are flocking to the sport like pelicans to a school of fish.

And when the baby boom generation takes something under its wing, things change dramatically.

As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the baby boom generation includes people born between 1946 and 1964. This group includes 76 million individuals or 28% of the American population. In 2013, over 4 million Americans will turn 50 years old. As one example, the Half Century Club is bursting at the seams with marathon swimmers and others older than 50 who are participating in more and more ocean, lake and river swims. With the interest in swimming increasing in this demographic group, it is a natural result that the sport of open water swimming correspondingly increases in unprecedented percentages.

Compared to Generation Y or those born between 1977 and 1994 (76 million Americans also referred to as the Millennials), the Baby Boomers remain slightly larger. But in contrast to Baby Boomers, the Millennials are marketed to by USA Swimming, high school swimming, triathlons and myriad other sports and governing bodies. The attention paid to open water swimming by the younger generations is miniscule compared to the interest in open water swimmers shown by the Baby Boomers.

Many Baby Boomers are looking for a low-impact sport where participation and completion are the goals as opposed to placing and competition. Many have done running and a variety of other land-based sports where knee, hip and joint problems cut short careers. Open water swimming offers them a sport that simultaneously provides them with a sense of adventure and joint-friendly buoyancy as well as an effective means of overall aerobic conditioning while aiding their flexibility.

Years ago, we conducted a study of the member growth in USA Swimming, the governing body of competitive swimming in the United States. The membership has growth consistently from the 1970's to 2010, but over this generation, it has grown nearly at the rate of the overall population growth. In contrast, the growth of open water swimming is truly represented by a hockey stick with its trajectory skyward.

We foresee the Baby Boomers continuing to flock to the open water swimming market in the foreseeable future as more and more events in over 160 countries attract their attention and interest. And, as they enlist their families to join them in local and exotic shorelines, the community will engage the next generation as well.

Photo of the Midmar Mile in South Africa by Jackie Clausen.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

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.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...

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 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.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


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World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program