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Sunday, April 28, 2013
Bert Thomas, Strait And Tough As A Marine
Trained and experienced in amphibious assaults, Thomas quickly learned to swim in the ocean as a native of the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado.
While stationed in Pearl Harbor on Oahu before being shipped out to war, he caught the open water swimming bug and competed in an 8-mile swim. This led his commanders to recruit him as a combat swimmer with a Marine reconnaissance battalion.
After six years in the Marines, Thomas moved to Tacoma, Washington in 1948 where he worked as a logger and longshoreman. Peacetime was welcomed, but then the itch to get back in the water came from an unexpected corner.
In 1954, he heard about the local newspaper offer of $7,500 to English Channel swimmer Florence Chadwick for her attempt to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca and $10,000 if she was successful to swim from Canada (Victoria, British Columbia) to the USA (Port Angeles, Washington). The tough ol' Marine, who had experienced so much during war, was intrigued. And then inspired as Chadwick retired in 47ºF (8.3ºC) water after swimming 5 miles in 5 hours 11 minutes in August 1954.
But for all his experience and motivation to swim across the international boundary between Canada and the United States, failure followed him several times before success was achieved.
Thomas was confident in his unique abilities to withstand hypothermia. He explained his mindset to The Marine Digest, "The cold [water] doesn’t bother me. It was stiffening fingers and arms that helped beat Chadwick. But the cold doesn’t affect me that way. I go into the water feet first, a little at a time. That way, it’s not such a shock to the system. The blood cools gradually. Once I get warmed up, I can keep going for hours."
But the big bucks offered to Chadwick were not there for the retired Marine and all the others who wished to succeed where Chadwick failed. The Victoria Daily Times offered $1,000 to the first person to conquer the Strait of Juan de Fuca while local businessmen threw in $700 and the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce added another $1,800 to sweeten the pot.
With the goal of a north-to-south crossing across the Strait, Thomas moved to the Canadian side of the strait in March 1955. Daily, he began working out in the cold, choppy water of the strait, gradually building up to 10 miles. Acclimated and inspired, Thomas thought he was ready to go in April before others beat him to the punch. But his training required more commitment than he first imagined.
In April, Thomas made his first north-to-south attempt, swimming 6 miles in 4 hours 10 minutes before being beaten by the elements. On his second north-to-south attempt in June, he was accompanied by 3 rivals who all quit earlier than Thomas who punished himself to an unsuccessful 10 hour 22 minute attempt. Thomas tried 19 days later, but he was defeated again. Relentless and pushing himself with his innate Marine mindset, he attempted again on only 3 days rest, but the tides and currents were too much on his fourth attempt.
Now it was time for mind over matter.
Instead of bucking against the inevitable, Thomas changed strategies and decided to swim in the south-to-north direction, starting in Port Angeles on the American side. With the sun on its downward arc, he started with the outgoing tide at nearly 6 pm on July 7th, 1955. Cold, as in 46ºF (7.7ºC) water, was not his primary enemy, but outfoxing the tidal flow was. On his fifth attempt and 16th attempt overall, he reached Canadian waters in a relatively quick 3 hours 15 minutes from the start. But with the sun setting and darkness settling in, his supporters built a large bonfire on the Canadian side in order to keep his escort boat on course. With his visual cue blazing brightly against the black of night, a radio station set up loudspeakers and blasted military tunes over the water in an attempt to keep the Marine motivated.
Only a mile from shore, it looked to be his day. But the tides had shifted and Thomas was fighting against the tide at 3 am in the morning. Cold and dark with the possibility of another defeat weighed heavily on his mind. But 2,000 spectators had lined the shore and watched Thomas dig deep until he reached the shore at 5:05 am to finish the 18.3-mile (29.4 km) crossing in 11 hours 10 minutes.
The other early crossings of the Strait include the following:
1. Bert Thomas - 8 July 1955 (11 hours 10 minutes)
2. Cliff Lumsdon - 17 August 1956 (11 hours 35 minutes)
3. Amy Hiland - 18 August 1956 (10 hours 51 minutes)
4. Ben Laughren - 18 August 1956 (10 hours 17 minutes)
5. Marilyn Bell - 23 August 1956 (10 hours 38 minutes)
6. Vicki Keith - 10 August 1989 (14 hours butterfly)
Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming
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...
Who else is looking for a qualified open water swimming coach to help them swim across the English Channel?Chloë McCardel is a 6-time English Channel Swimmer who inspires and instructs. Access featured content by Chloë in this month's issue of the Open Water Swimming Magazine. Published monthly by WOWSA, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a digital, interactive publication made available exclusively to WOWSA members. See what you've been missing! Become a WOWSA member today!
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.
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 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.
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.