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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Inexcusable, Inhumane Lack Of Regard Of Swimmers

Video coverage courtesy of Loudlab News. Story by WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California

Before Steven Robles Was Attacked By A Great White Shark

For years, we swam 2 miles between the Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach piers in Southern California. Near the runway of the LAX International Airport, it is a conveniently located stretch of warm, clear water that is heavily populated with ocean swimmers, triathletes, surfers, body surfers, fishermen, walkers, runners, and skaters.

As an open water swimmer, it is a fantastic place to train and race as the piers are nearly 2 miles apart and the coastline is fairly straight. The coastline is lined with multi-million dollar homes, gorgeous skaters in bikinis, and buff, fit beach volleyball players. The surf is consistent as are the presence of surfers and other marine goers. With rather mellow conditions most of the time, especially in the morning, and churned up sea with the afternoon winds, the 2-mile stretch is a great training ground year-round.

We have seen all kinds of marine life over the decades, from dolphins to sting rays, turtles and fish along this outstanding course. Seaweed patches dot the shoreline as do an occasional piece of plastic. When we run into the seaweed or debris, our hearts always jump. We always fear the worse.

We clearly understand the risks of venturing past the shoreline at places like Manhattan Beach. But frankly, the inherent risk of jellyfish stings or shark bites are simply too small to give up ocean swimming. The challenge of swimming pier to pier and the joy of body surfing into the finish are much greater draws than the fears of jellyfish or shark encounters.

But we have always steered clear of the pier, especially when fishermen are out casting their lines and trying to catch fish. We were frankly more fearful of getting hooked ourselves rather than encountering a ray or shark as we approached the pier. But even at 100 meters away from the pier, we often raised our head, swimming head up and always watchful of fishing lines and fishermen purposefully casting in our direction.

There is no clear legal distinction who has the right of way or who has priority in these waters: fishermen or swimmers. But it is an unwritten, humanitarian understanding that dictates that fishermen should pull their lines or refrain from casting their hooks and lines in the direction of swimmers. Surely, fishermen get easily frustrated by swimmers splashing in the area of their focus. They would much rather fish in peace, pulling up all kinds of fish, rather than have to deal with interruptions caused by ocean swimmers who swim close to piers.

Fortunately, the peaceful, unspoken alliance between fishermen and swimmers continues for most of the time and under nearly all conditions on the many piers along the East and West coasts of America. The marine enthusiasts with fishing poles and swimming goggles easily and rightly co-exist and share their joys in the ocean.

But Steven Robles was not so fortunate. The lifelong ocean swimmer and lifeguard was caught in a terrible cascade of unfortunate events when a fisherman was hooking a shark and trying to reel the estimated 7-foot Great White Shark in as swimmers were in the water. The complete lack of regard of swimmers in the water - who were clearly in sight - and the total inattention to safety and common courtesy was shocking to see.

How this fisherman and his friends, as well as other witnesses on the pier, could not and did not consider the inherent danger of swimmers in the water near an injured, mad shark, fighting for its life with a hook deeply embedded in its mouth is simply beyond us.

If hunters shot a bear and it was running towards campers, would not the hunter try to warn the campers? With all the Discovery Channel television programs on Shark Week and movies about sharks, would not the fisherman and friends try to warn the swimmers - and even more realistically, stop trying to reel in a shark when swimmers were in the water?

It is a shocking lack of care for one's fellow human being. Perhaps they were not thinking and perhaps they were having too much fun, but couldn't someone on the pier have alerted the swimmers in the area? The swimmers were swimming gradually in the area where the shark was hooked; the swimmers did not suddenly come into view.

Robles and his teammates answered the emergency as best they could. Even with an obvious shark encounter and blood in the water, Robles's teammates from SCAQ performed admirably. They quickly came to his rescue. They were clearly thinking of their teammate; they put their friend first and foremost in their minds. They pulled him to shore after the traumatic Great White Shark attack in one of the most popular beaches of Southern California.

They came to the rescue of a situation that should have never occurred at all and is a lesson for everyone who casts and hooks a shark with swimmers obviously in the water. With swimmers so clearly visible in the water and a shark fighting for its life with a hook in its mouth, swimmers can hope that someone - anyone - who is witness to such a scene would not only make the effort to warn the swimmers and stand-up paddle boarder, but also to encourage the fishermen to cut his line.

But on a weekend at a beach like Manhattan Beach, we can imagine hundreds of people must have seen the fishermen with the shark on the hook. For such a large shark to be on a hook from a pier, there is always commotion and a general understanding from people on the pier. Yet even with swimmers in the area, no one had the frame of mine to tell the fishermen to stop – or to tell the lifeguards or someone (like police officers on the beach) that swimmers are in the area with a hooked shark? We can imagine one unconcerned fishermen, but what this implies that swimmers are truly alone out there, fending for themselves.

And that should not be.

Editor's Postscript: Sakina of OC Open Water Swims clarified the situation that appears in the video above: "The guys were not the actual fishermen who caught the shark. They were just fishing with other people at the pier and happened to see the scene and shoot it...I don't believe they realized the gravity of the situation until later. They were just acting stupid, so stupid it seems that they sold their own video...As for the actual fisherman who caught the shark initially, he apparently stated he did not use chum."

To help with Steven Robles' medical bills, a donation page has been set up here.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association


  1. I am appalled and agree that this is inexcusable. Have the a-holes watching this occur and laughing just watched too many video games? This is real, and a real tragedy, not a game. What impact will this experience have on policies that protect swimmers in that area of the ocean? What's more, what the hell is someone doing trying to hook a shark, one of the most important and threatened predators in the sea? What the hell is going on here?

  2. I'm happy to hear that Robles will be okay. His teammates and the nearby surfers that helped deserve credit for responding admirably. It is a shame the fishermen on on the pier behaved so carelessly. The laughing in the video made me sick to my stomach.

  3. Glad he's ok. Just how did the fisherman plan on hauling that 7 foot great white up from the water onto the pier?? That is the question we should be asking him. My guess is that the weight of a 7 foot great white would be way more than anyone on the pier could lift. They should have cut it loose when they realized what they had on the line. What about all the swimmers on the beach in addition to the ones out beyond the pier? Not too smart Mr. fisherman.


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.


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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