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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Swimming Before The Crack Of Dawn

He woke up before the crack of dawn and started to sweat. Every time, he woke up, he started to sweat. What he was about to embark on was always risky. Illegal and risky.

But he had to swim in the Charles River, a slow-moving meandering river that emptied out into the Boston Harbor, for various reasons.

His summer racing plans demanded that he train like never before. With 5 marathon races scheduled over a 6-week period, he needed to get in the optimal physical and mental shape. The 36.2 km Around the Island Swim in Atlantic City, the 32 km Traverseé international du lac St-Jean in Roberval, the 34 km Traverseé internationale du lac Memphrémagog in Magog, the 38.6 km Cabo San Lucas International Swim in Mexico, and the 45.8 km Manhattan Island Marathon Swim was as packed a summer schedule as he could possibly devise.

First and foremost, he needed massive amounts of open water training. Just swimming back and forth at the 50m Blodgett Pool on the Harvard campus was not sufficient. He needed to practice and push himself in difficult situations in order to perform well in those five races. He needed to train in water without walls. He needed to think in hours, not meters, when he swam.

Secondly, he had crossed the Charles River for four straight years from his dormitory on one part of the Harvard campus to the athletic facilities on the other side of campus. Thousands of times, back and forth over the bridge, he stared at the Charles River wondering what it would be like to swim in the forbidden river. The Charles took on various characteristics throughout the year. It ranged from a winding river framed by the colorful leaves of autumn to a white frozen mass in winter. In spring, the speed of its current seem to speed up with the melting of the snow while in summer, things seemed to slow down as the heat and humidity became oppressive and seemed to press down on the river’s surface.

The Charles seemed to call him, inviting him to challenge himself swimming upstream and then enjoy the speed of a downstream return.

But the Charles was off limits. It was illegal to swim in the Charles. But more than illegal, it was unthinkable due to the pollution and his fear of Master Heimert, the authoritative administrator who ruled Eliot House, his dormitory.

And that was a powerful motivation for his plans. Because swimming in the Charles could not be done, it had to be done. Because it was wrong according to local laws, it seemed so right as an adventure. He wanted to transform a no-you-can't to a yes-I-did.

But there were far greater risks than getting arrested by the Cambridge police. There was Master Heimert. If he crossed Master Heimert, then he could get kicked out of the university. Getting kicked out of school was worse than being arrested. An arrest would be a social stigma, but after all those tests, homework, papers, and hours of study, he could not face being expelled. And Heimert was the master of his academic universe.

Which made it enticing. Really alluring. In a twisted mind of a marathon swimmer desperate to train, he reveled in facing the risks of arrest and academic suicide...and getting away with it.

So he made a plan. And he told no one: not his roommates, not his teammates. Nary a word to his parents and not a peep to any classmates. His swim would be completely confidential. A total blackout of information. The risk of telling anyone was too high. The last thing he could afford was for anyone to leak the information.

On the first day, he easily woke up before the crack of dawn. He could hardly sleep through the night as he began to question his own sanity and carefully mull over the risks. But he used the cloak of darkness to maintain confidentiality. Night swimming was his means to an end. The collegiate rowers would be out early on the Charles, but not that early. They needed the light of the early morning to row safely. To avoid being caught, he would simply swim before the sun rose. He would rather face darkness than the Cambridge police or Master Heimert.

He had scouted the Charles for the perfect rendezvous. He selected a location where he could hide his clothes and enter the river without anyone noticing. He planned to jump in on a moonlit night and just start swimming parallel to shore no more than 10 meters off the shoreline. Swimming out in the middle of the river was too risky to be seen and would require time for him to escape if he were seen A few runners might be out, but the last thing they would expect was a student swimming in the Charles. Even the splashing of his arm strokes should not attract attention for the sounds of arm strokes would be completely out of place in a darkened river. The sound, so foreign, would be totally unexpected and most probably ignored by runners.

So he wiped his eyes, munched on a banana, and grabbed a clear pair of goggles and a black swim cap. He changed into his shoes and running shorts. He would disguise himself as a jogger along the river banks and then dart into the Charles like a Navy SEAL. As he left his dorm room with his slumbering roommates completely unaware of his plans, the Charles environs were eerily quiet with the dawn’s light hours away.

He took less than 10 minutes to run to his predetermined secret location. It was an easy jog, but he started to sweat profusely while his heart raced. Fortunately, no one was around the jogging paths that line the Charles. There some light traffic along the streets, but no one was looking for a college student training for a marathon swim. No one could possibly imagine – or approve – what he was up to.

When he stopped by the hedge of bushes near the banks, his skin was clammy and cold to the touch. He slowly stripped down to his swimsuit, swiveling his head at every sound. He looked around constantly, more worried about the specter of facing Master Heimert than the risks of swimming in a polluted river. He put on his black swim cap and adjusted his goggles. A black swim cap was his way to convince himself that he was now stealth. He figured all that was missing was camouflage paint. If there was ever a time to jump in, now was the time.

He skulked in the water as quietly as possible and was surprised to find the water warmer than he expected. He knew where he wanted to swim, but he didn't want to create ripples or a wake. But it was too late to go back now. Now it was time to execute his plan.

It was dark with only a bit of light from the city and street lights reaching the Charles. But he had picked a good night to swim. The moonlight created silhouettes out of the trees and shrubs along the shoreline. This would help with his navigation even with the blackness. Tonight was unlike any other. Normally darkness was a hindrance to a swimmer, but the cloak of darkness was now an enabler.

He dropped his shoulders to the water’s surface, took one last look around, and then took off upstream. He felt free, but he also felt scared. But as the Charles contours meandered through Cambridge, so did he. He swam parallel to the banks as best he could. He swam and swam, planning to train for an hour on that first night. He was occasionally surprised by a floating branch that popped up in his path, but the swim was completely stealth. It was only him and the Charles, like two long-lost friends who finally met. After 30 minutes, he decided not to push his luck and risk being caught. So he turned around and swam back. He knew exactly where he stashed his clothes and got out safely while evading capture.

And he did it over and over again. Quietly and confidentially.

Dial forward some 30 years later. Open water swimming is now an Olympic sport and tens of thousands of open water swimming event take place including the Charles River Swim. The former swimmer with a long-repressed relationship with the Charles read newspaper accounts that the river is now open to the public for time since the 1950's.

Less than 500 meters from the Longfellow Bridge where he secretly swam way back when, contemporary swimmers can now freely frolick in the Charles. It brought a smile to his face. No more hiding, no more secret swims, no more swimming under the cloak of darkness. Over the weekend, the Charles River Conservancy hosted the first public swim in the Charles River in 50 years. Renata von Tscharner, the founder of the Charles River Conservancy, was happy to join so many locals in the roped-off area near the shoreline.

From sneaking into the Charles in the pre-dawn mornings to publicly enjoying the river in the light of day in front of the media, the environment sure has changed for the better. A swimmable Charles: surely a time for celebration.

For more information on the Charles River Conservancy, visit here.

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
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.

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 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.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program