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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dark Shadows Of Neoprene In The Open Water World

If you do open water swimming, you swim in a wetsuit, right?

That seems to be the standard question and assumption regarding attire worn by open water swimmers.

In discussions with marathon swimmers in California, there is an interesting clash of cultures. These swimmers who so proudly train year-round in the Pacific Ocean in order to build up their acclimatization to the cold water are frequently faced with neighbors, friends, family and co-workers who inaccurately assume they always wear wetsuits in the ocean.

Almost without exception, these swimmers face a general public and posse of friends and must explain that they enjoy the challenge of open water swimming sans neoprene.

An English Channel swimmer from San Diego describes her near daily run-ins with a disbelieving public, even as she emerges from La Jolla Cove during the winter. “In my experience with the general public, open water swimming equals wetsuit swimming every time. I was at a New Year's Eve party and sadly the host and hostess would tell everyone I swam the English Channel when introduced. Not one person at that party did not ask me the dreaded wetsuit question.”

For her swim buddies who frequent La Jolla on a near daily basis, their personal experiences were all the same. Whether they had crossed the English Channel or simply swim for fitness, 100% of the swimmers are asked if they wear wetsuits whenever open water swimming is the topic of conversation.

A Catalina Channel swimmer was even more blunt when asked if she encountered inquiries about neoprene. “Yes. All the time. People just assume that I wear one of those wussie suits and are shocked when I tell them I don't. Even if they don't ask, I usually make a point to say I do all this stuff without a wetsuit. Usually my statement leads to a disbelieving stare and an incredulous gasp or two.”

Two other California swimmers who have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar reiterated, “I am asked about wetsuits constantly. It’s the first thing most people ask. Next would be sharks.”

Yes, we are asked all the time about wetsuits. People look at me as if I am a nut, but I explain that it is necessary for training and acclimation. When the water hits 60°F, it feels almost tropical.”

Another marathon swimmer piped in, “Yes, the default presumption is that I always wear a wetsuit.”

Whether it was swimmers in Southern California or Northern California, the assumptions about wearing wetsuits are the same, “I'd say outside the open water swimming community, 95% of the people who found out I did the English Channel asked their first question about wetsuits. ‘I assume you wore a wetsuit, right?’ Also, tons of those 95%ers were not new people in my life. My entire immediate family thought I was doing it in a wetsuit. They [only] found out otherwise when I showed them the pictures at Christmas, 4 months after my swim. Almost all of my university friends, co-workers, and friends back home asked about wetsuits.”

With 1.9 million triathletes in America and many of them in California, it may not be surprising that the general public believes anyone who enters the oceans wear black wetsuits, but we asked American open water swimmers why they think the general public assumes open water swimmers wear wetsuits. These were the responses:

I think most people associate cold with ocean swimming, so assume that swims of significant duration would take advantage of neoprene. The general population is not familiar with the existence of marathon swimming, much less it's traditions, something I believe some of us entrenched in the sport take for granted as common knowledge.”

Because most people probably believe the water is too cold for them, thus it is a wetsuit swim. They can't imagine it any other way. It would never enter their mind to swim in cold water without one.”

I'd guess it's an assumption that well over half of the general public makes when initially told about marathon swimming."

Wetsuits were popularized in America during the early 1990s. It may be that the sport of triathlon has shifted the perception of open water swimmers in the eyes of the general public. Says one veteran of channel swimming, “It's possible that triathlon has influenced the perception of open water swimmers, but it could just as well be the popularization of wetsuits, including widespread use of wetsuits among surfers, paddle boarders, divers, and spear fishermen.”

I believe all of the general public believes everyone wears wetsuits. When I speak of the channel swims I've swam I always hear, "You swim in a wetsuit, right?"

The sport of triathlon has shifted the perception of open water swimmers in the eyes of the general public. The TV news reels of local sports, mostly triathlons, show the swimmers in wetsuits. The crowds are drawn to triathlons and so are the sponsor dollars. Wetsuits are worn by swimmers in the events usually seen most in the press. A channel swimmer in contrast, if [in the newspaper] at all, usually warrants a back page inch or two. Besides there is more money in triathlons for equipment allowing for sponsorship and PR. But not so much so for channel swimmers who can get by with a total equipment cost of US$100.”

Bioprene is beautiful.”

I like the way the water feels, cold or not, without the wetsuit and enjoy the challenge of pushing through the cold and going fast enough to stay warm. Some in my swim group wear wetsuits, including my wife when she swims with us. At this point, I don't ever plan on wearing neoprene and I have taken a stand for myself that I won't wear neoprene.”

It seems crazy to those who have not done so to swim in sub-60° water without one, so they can't imagine anyone would do it. San Diego has over a million people, yet some mornings in winter, I'm the first one in the water at the cove. People who live in the area or go to the cove see us in our Speedos and know we do that, yet, if not associated with us probably assume we are swimming a short distance.”

Of the people who ask me about my channel adventures, the majority say, "You wear a wetsuit, don't you?.' I suspect triathlon with far more people doing it than open water swimming probably has shaped the public view of ocean swimmers. I think people who participate in either sport (triathlon or open water distance swimming) realize the difference.

I have always believed the general public assumes we were wetsuits because triathletes wear them and that is what the average person sees on TV. That combined with the fact that most people can't imagine swimming in water much colder than 80°F. I have seen swimmers in wetsuits in pool workouts because they were cold. I have heard these comments in America as well as when I have traveled to other countries."

When at home or traveling abroad, the question inevitably arises. “Invariably the topic of marathon swimming and training year round in the ocean comes up and the question of wetsuits eventually pops up. Seriously, it never ceases to amaze me how stunned people are that wetsuits are not allowed in our sport. I know for a fact I am not the only one who has experienced this amazement that wetsuits are not worn.”

Photo shows Dr. Otto Thaning who is planning to cross the English Channel at the age of 72 this summer, without a wetsuit adhering to the Channel Rules.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


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."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
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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.

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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 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.

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Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program