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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Maintaining The Mission Of The Waikiki Roughwater Swim

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

"Come to the meeting," asked Jim Anderson of the Waikiki Roughwater Swim Committee.

I had a pretty good inkling what I was getting into back in the mid-1980's, but I was young and had enough time on my hands. I was not born in Hawaii nor was I a long-time resident kama'aina, but I was very interested in meeting new people, making new friends, especially swimmers and ocean-goers.

As a life-long ocean swimmer, I had always heard of the iconic Waikiki Roughwater Swim, but I had never actually seen the 2.4-mile point-to-point ocean course across Waikiki Bay on Oahu.

So I started to swim the course myself on the weekends. One Saturday, standing on the Kaimana Beach, the traditional start of the swim, I noticed a group of obviously fit masters swimmers checking out the course and then taking off. The mix of men and women was a kind of group who you knew were familiar with the ocean. As they were standing onshore applying sunscreen and stretching, they were pointing out to the horizon. Even though I was out of earshot, it was clear they were making plans for their swim course as they surveyed the ocean conditions.

I smiled and thought, "Cool, I'll just follow them."

But something inside me suggested to not disturb them so I hung back and watched them get 50-100 meters offshore. Then I took off, trailing the pod of ocean swimmers as best I could. Little did I know the capabilities of this group that included Mike Miller, Ian Emberson, Doug Rice and Rick Heltzel. As luck would have it, these were the crème de la crème of the local ocean swimming scene in the 1980s. Miller had done the Molokai Channel and would go on to complete the English Channel, Catalina Channel, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, END-WET, Maui Channel and many others. Emberson had also done the Molokai Channel and 1982 Ironman Triathlon and is the long-time race director of the Maui Channel Swim. Rice was the first person to swim from Lanai to Maui and did all kinds of other ocean events and Heltzel won the Hawaiian Christmas Looong Distance Invitational Rough-H2O Swim over 12 times and was the record holder for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. It was an esteemed group - the quartet together with the wives were young, fit and adventurous.

Without guidelines and few predecessors, their vision of what could be done athletically in the ocean was inspirational. As they kindly accepted me with a warm aloha spirit, I was enthralled by their spirit of adventure as we took all kinds of courses around the perimeter of Oahu, but I was also wizened by their attention to detail and knowledge of the marine environment.

Through their introductions, I met the venerable Jim Anderson who would later be inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and race director for the first FINA Open Water Swimming Championships.

This was a man who loved details. This was a man who loved ensuring safety of hundreds of people swimming across one of the most heavily used beaches in the world.

So I went to my first Waikiki Roughwater Swim Committee meeting and literally met the Who's Who of ocean swimming in Hawaii, from Fred Trask to Steve Bobko and Alan Hong. Stalwarts and passionate people all. They worked behind the scenes to make sure the Waikiki Roughwater Swim stayed true to its mission: to conduct a safe event on Oahu that encouraged locals and visitors to challenge themselves in a swim across its most famous bay.

I threw myself into the group dynamics with gusto. These people were engineers, lawyers, dentists, marketeers, city employees, Olympians, and teachers, but they were all drawn together by their love of ocean swimming. They could have asked me to do anything and I would have done so as I held each of them in such high regard.

After the first year of volunteering, I was asked to take the helm by Anderson and thought, "What a great opportunity to help elevate the event..." So we increased the spotters, high-powered binoculars, and radio communications on the top floors of the tallest hotels that lined Waikiki Beach in order to more quickly locate swimmers in distress. We worked closely with Ralph Goto, Kenny Rust and the rest of the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division. We rented school buses and enabled people to park at the finish and be bused to the start. We provided some towels on the seats of the buses so people could wipe off the sunscreen and skin lotions that might get on their hands and goggles before the race. And we set up a sister swim relationship with events in Australia.

And we made sure that all our volunteers were well fed and received cool t-shirts.

Pay attention to the details. Those were the expectations that Anderson had focused on and what he instilled in me.

Enjoy the ocean, but be safe. Those were the assumptions that Miller, Trask, Hong, Goto, Emberson, Rice and Bobko inspired me to uphold.

Keep true to the mission. That was the standard that founder Jim Cotton set for all of us: keep the classic and dramatic course to that far distant shore, have a community swim that is welcoming to all including especially recreational swimmers, and have one major theatrical race to showcase Hawaii.

Those three fundamental principles: (1) pay attention to the details, (2) enjoy the open water but be safe, and (3) keep true to the mission are continued to serve me well throughout the last several decades in the open water swimming world.

The 45th annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim will be held on Labor Day, September 1st as part of the 2014-2015 World Open Water Swimming Series. For more information, visit here.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

2 comments:

  1. Hawaii misses you. Good time for a return this Labor Day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what is the sister swim in Australia?

    ReplyDelete

Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
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

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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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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.

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