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Monday, December 9, 2013

Julian Crabtree's Great Swim Challenge Of Yesteryear

When we saw Julian Crabtree finish third in the 456m endurance swim at this past weekend's Big Chill Swim Salford, we recalled another one of his great swims way back in 2009 where he and Colin Hill's paths previously crossed.

While this weekend swim was performed in his raw bioprene in 7ºC (44.6ºF) in an urban pool, Crabtree wore neoprene in Windermere for an unusual feat. But the transformation from neoprene to bioprene over the past few years is remarkable.

Crabtree's feat, conducted during the British Gas Great Swim Series, was called the 43-mile Great Swim Challenge. This was his story:

"'You've got 30 seconds, so dig deep,' screams Colin Hill as I stumble up the ramp at the Great North Swim in Windermere.

The blood is pumping in my ears and my shoulders are aching as I try and sprint back to the start for the next wave of swimmers. The support I am getting is incredible, but I cannot stop to thank them - the count down has started...five, four, three, two...

The hooter goes just as I reach the start and I am back in the water for my ninth mile swim of the day - only four more to go...Four months ago when David Hart, Communications Director for Nova International, asked me if I was interested in swimming all the waves of the Great North Swim, I jumped at the chance.

Despite this being only the second year of the event, the Great North Swim has grabbed the public's attention and is already seen as a must-do event.

Against the backdrop of the stunning Lake Windermere, it offers swimmers of all abilities the chance to swim in one of the most beautiful places in Britain. This iconic event is supported by some of the best swimmers in the world with the likes of Keri-Anne Payne, Cassie Patten and Larisa Ilchenko all taking part. The success of the first Great North Swim in 2008 was, in fact, so massive that in 2009 Nova added a further three swims to the list - the Great London Swim, the Great Scotland Swim and the Great East Swim. All have been major successes and are expected to grow even bigger in the coming years.

With that in mind I upped the stakes of David’s challenge - how about I try for all the waves of all the Great Swims?

With London and Scotland under my belt, I headed up to Windermere knowing that things were about to get a lot tougher and I would have to push my limits to complete all 24 waves.

The two other Great Swims were organised so that the waves went off every hour, averaging each wave out at around 25 minutes meant I had plenty of time to recover and fuel up. However the Great North Swim was different. With over 6,000 swimmers taking part, there were 12 waves a day, but this time they were going off every 30 minutes.

There is something special about facing the unknown. There is, of course, the fear and, in my case, always plenty of self-doubt that I have to constantly battle with - that feeling that once you do start to dig deep there is nothing there and you are found wanting and way below the standards you have set for yourself. But it is a powerful and liberating feeling too – one way or the other you are going to know a little bit more about yourself at the end of it all.

The first swim kicks off at 9 am and I plunge into the clear and bracing lake for my first mile. I try not to think how many I still have to do (23!) or get caught up in any races. I concentrate on my stroke, my breathing and try to soak up the incredible venue. I get around it just over 25 minutes – a bit too quickly than I wanted, but all okay.

The support I receive is incredible as the Nova staff make sure I have everything I need and are always on hand to guide and help me with a smile.

Then there are the rest of the swimmers. From the lady who had only learnt to swim after she sent her entry form in to the first disabled man to have swum the English Channel, they are incredible and give me plenty of inspiration to keep on going.

Apart from an unlucky kick in the fifth wave that hurts my shoulder, I get through Saturday by the skin of my teeth. I cannot really think about how I am going to do it all again on Sunday, but tomorrow is another day. Once again, Nova looked after me in the evening and sent me off to bed properly hydrated and well fed.

Sunday feels like Ground Hog day. I have plenty of well wishes and am humbled by the amount of support I am getting. Each wave greets me with cheers and slaps on the back. The first six, I am well on target and start to believe that I may just do this. Then the wheels fall off. I can’t seem to feel the water at all, my shoulder is killing me and I feel like I am going backwards.

At the best of times, I am not a pretty swimmer. I don’t effortlessly glide or cut through the water. I bludgeon my way through, relying on brute force to drag myself forward. It’s not pretty, but it has worked well for me in the past. However, after 18 waves, I have no power left and desperately try to slip stream off the faster swimmers around me.

I have five more to do, then four, then three. At the end of my 21st wave, I am down to just 30 seconds and know that I am only going to get slower. If I can just hang on though, just find a bit more grip in the water, I may just be able to keep to the 30-second buffer. As I am pulled out for my 22nd mile, I am told to jump on the back of the buggy.

Seeing my exhausted state, Nova have got a golf cart sorted to race me from the finish to the start. It is seconds really, but enough time for me to grin and get some more fluids down. Afterwards I am told it was exciting stuff: will he make it back in time? Can he keep on going?

I am hurting badly now, but have to keep on going. I know am swimming badly, but cannot seem to anything about it – totally exhausted and feeling pain everywhere I can only keep going on stroke at a time. I know if I get back for the 24th wave, I have done it – I can relax then, take it easy. Stop and enjoy the setting sun, say thank you to the rescue kayakers who have been out all day and just reflect on an incredible two days of swimming. But I have one more lap to go before that and I am putting everything I have into it. I am not embarrassed to say that I am sobbing into the lake, shouting in anger and frustration to desperately try and find some more speed. Hands are reaching for me and pull me out. Go, go, go they scream – back on the buggy.

I can hear them counting down for the final wave - I’ve just made it and as the hooter goes for the 24th and final wave, I plunge in for the final time. I do stop and thank the kayakers and for a moment roll onto my back, lift my goggles up and take it all in. But then all thoughts of taking it slow evaporate. I’ve had enough I want to get out as soon as possible – as I am helped out for the final time, I keep my goggles in and try to hold back the tears – not from the pain, but from the overwhelming support from everyone. To complete the Great Nova Swim Challenge, I still have the all the waves in the Great East Swim to do. It won’t be easy, but I have the spirit of Windermere to take with me and with that anything is possible.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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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.


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 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