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Friday, June 6, 2014
A Swimmer’s Account Across The Sea Of Cortez
On June 3rd, David Ogden, Mauricio Prieto, Luane Rowe, Richard Ernst, Shannon Navarro, and I tried to swim 100 miles across the Sea of Cortez - the fifth try in history. The morning of the swim the sea was a flat, turquoise lake and we felt lucky and optimistic that we might be the first to cross. Dolphins were seeing us off — a good omen. My turn was second - right after Luane, a champion swimmer from Australia. We were making great time and Baja California kept growing more distant as we swam off into the blue horizon - mainland Mexico nowhere in sight. I was ready to swim a 10 am shift, 4 pm shift, 10 pm shift, 4 am shift and so on for the next two and a half days. Our whole team had prepared for this kind of routine.
The first shift felt great. It was fun to breathe and see my teammates giving me a thumbs up on the boat. The water was sapphire blue and the sun rays looked like long chards of glass. Mauricio swam after me followed by Richard, Shannon and Dave. We were all feeling pretty high. The second shift, at 4 pm, I was beginning to get stung by invisible jellyfish - the kind of stings that shock you temporarily, like tiny needles into the skin but that fade in seconds. It was unsettling but still not enough to distract you too much.
Preparing for the 10 pm night shift, my mind began searching through the card catalogue of all the information I’d read about Cortez from other swimmers. The wind had picked up and the water was getting rough. Luane, one of the most intrepid swimmers I’ve ever met, was churning along although I could tell she was getting stung by the spasmodic jerks in her otherwise strong rhythm. What I was most scared about were the jellyfish that paralyze your muscles and give you essentially third degree burns - something I had read about during the second thwarted attempt. Suddenly we heard Luane scream, “F*%K! FK!” as she stopped in the water. We were watching her green blinky light on the top of her cap sit motionlessly in the water as she tried to get the tentacles off her body. Since it was pitch black dark, I didn’t know if she was all right. Vito Bialla yelled at her, “You ok?” She swam over to the boat and I leaned way over the side and handed her a credit card so she could scrape off the poison. I looked at Vito and could tell he was calmly monitoring my reaction since I was next. He said, “She’s tough as nails. Look, she won’t touch the boat. She’s doing her thing and will keep going.” And she did.
I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt suddenly panicky - like a bucket of fear. I understood that I was going to get stung badly and had no idea what that would mean. Mauricio reassured me, “You can do this. You’re stronger than you think.” We were using a jellyfish repellant cream and I lathered up every inch of my face and body hoping to create a buttery shield. Richard told me that I looked like I was made of porcelain. “One minute!” yelled Vito. My hands were shaking comically as I tried to wipe the fog from my goggles (as if I was going to be able to see anything anyway). Feeling every bit afraid, I took a deep breath and dove into the blackness.
Swimming at night in the middle of the ocean you don’t think about the sea monsters deep below - like the man-eating squid that many talk about. You are desperate to stay next to the boat and not get lost at sea. I had tucked a credit card and a whistle in the back of my suit - the credit card being the true thing I needed: the whistle now a symbol of a safety measure I incorrectly thought I would need. Black water enveloped my bare limbs and I saw hundreds of golden bubbles shimmer off my fingers with each stroke - something I had heard about but didn’t really believe until now. I was getting stung by the same jellies as the earlier shift when suddenly it felt like 15 long knife-like fingers grabbed me all at once around the neck and shoulders. I stopped cold and screamed exactly as Luane had. I was stunned at how it seemed to reach way too many cells all at the same time. I knew I had to regroup as Luane had. I scraped at my neck and angrily kicked the water as hard as I could to try and minimize the pain and continued. This same thing happened to every single member of the team at least 3-6 times during their shifts. When my hour was up, Mauricio jumped in - awaiting the same fate. I was glad to have an extra credit card to give him so he could scrape off a jellyfish all over his body. After spotting for him, I went below to the bunks where I was supposed to rest a couple of hours before my 4 am shift. The wind picked up to 25-30 knots, waves were breaking and the boat was careening wildly from side to side. Anything that was not secured to the boat began crashing to the ground. At midnight I heard Shannon scream from the water: “OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW!” Hearing her, I felt like I wanted to cry - things weren’t getting better. Shannon kept on, like a champ. When it was Dave’s turn, he got stung in the face but was stoic and never once complained. It goes without saying - my incredible teammates made me stronger than I ever could have been by myself.
My 4 am shift came and I had difficulty ascending the stairs to reach the deck. It was impossible to walk as the boat lurched from side to side. We were scrambling and staggering absurdly - grasping anything we could grab onto. At one point I saw Mauricio crawling on all fours and began sliding into a water cooler. I dove into the Sea of Cortez’s ruthless maw and hoped for courage. About half way into the hour I felt a throbbing mass of pain hit my face and go into my mouth (you’d think by now I wouldn’t swim with my mouth open). “Mother F#@$er!” I cursed like a sailor and scraped the tentacles off my face, regrouped, and continued. Somehow the hour was eventually up and I got out feeling drained from the stings and the rough waves. I then spotted for Mauricio — all the while worrying about Richard who was so sea sick that he kept on throwing up off the side of the boat. He never once complained and dove in and got stung badly in the first 5 minutes of his 6 am shift.
At 7:00 am Vito called us to a team meeting. The weather was getting even worse and it was too dangerous to be on the boat. There was nothing in our favor - the weather and ocean were adamant. It was clear that this attempt was impossible; I felt humble and completely sure that this was the only choice. The Sea of Cortez wasn’t going to let us cross her this time. We had swum 22 hours and made it 48 miles — just shy of the halfway mark. And Mexico wasn’t even in sight.
Huge huge huge thanks to friends and family who gave us support - it really made a huge difference!
* Equipment used: swim cap, goggles, standard swimsuit, Safe Sea® (jellyfish sting protective lotion*). A note on the jellyfish lotion: I'm pretty sure that using it made it possible for us to continue although the stings hurt badly. Without it, I think the swim would have been called due to jellyfish stings.
*Origin: Tecolote Beach, Baja California Sur
*Intended destination: Topolobampo, Sinaloa
* Start of swim: 9 AM, June 3rd
* Swim called off at 7 AM, June 4th due to dangerous weather conditions
* Distance covered: 42 nautical miles (78 km)
* Order of relay: Luane Rowe, Susan Moody, Mauricio Prieto, Richard Ernst, Shannon Navarro, and David Ogden
* Captain: Vito Bialla
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.
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Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:
The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.