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Friday, February 14, 2014
Missing Swimmer Found In The Midmar Dam
Van Straten had started in the third heat on Saturday, the first day of the annual open water swimming extravaganza. Van Straten had started in the same heat that I swam in. Just a few hours earlier, the first two heats of the aQuellé Midmar Mile offered extremely tranquil conditions that surprised and pleased many newcomers and veterans of the event.
But between the second and third heat, the winds picked up. Although no whitecaps were generated, the surface chop made the event a real rough water challenge. At the start, Martin Godfry, a veteran of 40 Midmar Miles, gave detailed instructions to the swimmers: what to look for, what to expect and what to do in case of an emergency or simply if you got tired along the way.
“Under sunny skies, I stood on the shoreline with 550 other swimmers including Van Straten, listening to the pre-race instructions. There was the typical energy in the air before any competitive race and after the first two heats, people were excited to start,” described Steven Munatones. “Swimmers were smiling and anxious to see what they could do and swim among old friends. I didn’t want to get in the mix with the top swimmers, so I went to the back of the starting line with the younger swimmers and took my time to swim across the lake.
As I swam casually among the hundreds of boys and men, I could see swimmers all around me including the most competitive who sprinted ahead far ahead. There were swimmers to my left and right, way in front of me and far behind. It was easier to sight off the other swimmers around me rather than the buoys along the course especially because of the surface chop. In the midst of the swim, I passed dozens of lifeguards and the South African navy personnel.”
But tragedy was about to strike the heat.
Van Straten, a veteran of the Midmar Mile, never made it to the finish. Somewhere either in the first half of the race or around the midpoint, something happened to the 43-year-old CEO. Even with all the swimmers and safety personnel throughout the course, Van Straten somehow sunk quietly, suddenly, and without warning.
It was the second time in the 41 years of the event that such a tragedy occurred.
“In the first two heats, there were swimmers who could not make the swim and were helped by paddle boarders and boaters that line the course,” described Munatones. “I was on a boat that picked up one of these swimmers and brought him to shore.” But the physically fit businessman from Johannesburg was neither observed going under by any swimmers around him nor by the safety personnel among and along the straight-line, point-to-point course. Unfortunately, his body remained out of sight for days somewhere in the comfortably warm water, similar to the situation with Nico Mellet in 2011.
While the water quality is good, there is limited clarity in the reservoir. Beyond one or two meters below the surface, it is impossible to really see anything which the South African rescue divers know well. The South African Navy provides divers who man the course throughout the aQuellé Midmar Mile, but down in the depths, they are blind for all practical purposes.
Van Straten, who had completed the race before (34:48 in 2013), was reportedly comfortable in the open water and participated in the event with his company employees this year. Similar to Mellet's unexpected tragedy in 2011, it was a sad shock to all how physically robust and experienced athletes like the Johannesburg pair could die silently and unseen in a race that had an unblemished record of safety for nearly four decades.
The unfortunate tragedies are a reminder of the inherent and ever-present risks involved in open water swimming. If these tragedies can happen to normally fit and experienced open water swimmers, no one is practically immune to the threat.
From International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmers Dave Parcells in Florida to Fran Crippen in Dubai, those who pass away in the open water swimming competitions are always very sad reminders of these risks and the responsibilities of the safety personnel in the races.
The tragedies are also a wake-up call to review and assess the safety protocols, procedures and policies in every swim. Race directors and Safety Officers, especially with large races or events that are spread over great distances, are always presented with difficult challenges:
1. How best - or practical is it - to conduct a race where there can be eyes on every swimmer at every moment of the race?
2. How to rescue - or prevent - a swimmer who sinks below the surface in water that lacks the clarity of tropical seas?
3. What technologies – like sonar – can be implemented by the sport so tragedies that befell Van Straten and Mellet can be avoided?
4. When a tragedy occurs, what are the proper protocols? Should the race postponed, changed or cancelled?
5. Should races be limited in size? If so, what number is proper?
6. Can race directors around the world get together and share information to improve protocols that can help the entire sport and its collective safety practices?
Swimming offshore in the open water is nothing like swimming in a pool. When a person slips under the surface in an open body of water, there are literally seconds before problems or death can occur. While GPS technologies have their limitations and are unsuitable for identifying swimmers who go under the surface of the water, there are promising sonar technologies that may be further developed for the sport. Perhaps sonar safety can provide safety personnel a greater chance for a quick rescue in these unexpected emergencies?
FOX 10 News - Phoenix, AZ | KSAZ-TV
Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
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.