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Monday, May 27, 2013

Establishing A Governing Body In Open Water Swimming

With greater number of individuals of all ages, abilities, and aspirations joining the sport, the number of officials, administrators, coaches, vendors, pilots, and volunteers is also rapidly increasing.

It is a large watery world out there and it is getting organized.

Over the last several years, a growing number of governing bodies and associations have also been established to promote, organize and govern the emerging sport of open water swimming.

These organizations are volunteer-driven and led by passionate individuals who have a vast knowledge and deep appreciation for the sport. The organizations include the Farallon Islands Swimming Association, Lake Tahoe Swimming Society, International Ice Swimming Association, Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, Vancouver Open Water Swimming Association, Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association, Japan International Open Water Swimming Association, Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association, Tsugaru Strait Swimming Association, Menorca Channel Swimming Association, Association of Korea Open Water Swimming, Universal Marathon Cold Swimming Association, L.O.S.T. Swimming, Dubai Open Water Swimming Sports Association, Great Lakes Open Water Swimming Association, Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association, World Open Water Swimming Association, and many, many more.

These governing bodies and associations plan and sanction solo swims, competitive events, and relays. They provide officials and observers as well as escort pilot and volunteer lists. They set forth rules and regulations, protocols and procedures. They offer safety plans and advice as well as recognize qualification standards and ratify swims. They maintain databases and documentation on open water swimming activities and attempts under their jurisdiction, and largely post these online or otherwise make the information available to interested swimmers, coaches, parents, administrators, and the media.

The governing bodies are part of the continuum of the sport: their administrators aim to preserve the history of open water swimming in their jurisdiction as well as safeguard the present, and help promote swimmers and develop events in the future.

In some cases, the governing body must seek, interact and receive approval from local agencies or authorities that may include municipal governments or Coast Guard units. Examples include the Channel Swimming Association, Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, Channel Swimming & Piloting Association, and the Asociacion de cruce a nado del Estrecho de Gibraltar. Perhaps one of the most comprehensive and complicated coordination of governmental agencies and authorities is done by NYC Swim that organizes and governs its events as it also navigates approvals from municipal, state, and national agencies in one of the most crowded waterways of the world.

But for individuals or groups who wish to create their own governing body in their local area or to establish an association to manage a specific type of there is no overarching national or international legal entity that specifically grants permission or approval to establish or maintain another governing body in this sport. If there is any group of individuals who wish to establish their own governing body that is responsible for a certain regional area (e.g., Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association), waterway Lake Tahoe Swimming Society), type of swimming (e.g., International Ice Swimming Association), or series of events (e.g., Japan International Open Water Swimming Association), they are free to do so.

In the case of the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA), it was asked to administer international competitions and establish rules back in 1908. But similar to relatively new sports like extreme sports, road racing, triathlon, fitness competitions, and beach volleyball, there are always a concurrent need, a renewed desire, and a collective advantage for athletes, coaches, managers, sponsors, and vendors, especially in emerging sports, to establish governing bodies.

This is where the passion, knowledge, time and talents of the local administrators comes in. They know the sport; they wish to promote it; they are able to support the growing community of athletes of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, goals, and locations.

When these individuals are committed and establish a governing body, their legitimacy fundamentally comes from the respect and acknowledgment of the athletes in that sport or local area, or in that particular discipline (e.g., extreme swimming). If the governing body provides information and data, promotion and rules, customer service and support (that can range from introduction of observers and education of officials, and providing timers and volunteers), then the community respects and acknowledges the reason for being by the new governing body.

While the new associations are helping define and support the sport, the long-time stalwarts of the sport - from the British Long Distance Swimming Association and the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association to the Hawaiian Channel Swim Association and the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation are examples of governing bodies in the open water swimming world that have long been supporting the sport and its athletes for decades. They have set standards that the newer organizations aim to achieve.

With 70% of the Planet Earth water and millions of people taking to it, there is a lot to organize.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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