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Monday, August 25, 2014

Beyond Avalon Returns To The Deep And Dark

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Doug Stanley was going to shift the paradigm of open water swimming with the constant global, real-time coverage of selected open water swims, especially those unprecedented ultra-marathon swims across lakes, channels and oceans.

Utilizing the SmackDab platform, fans can view open water swimmers no matter where they are located around the world or what conditions they traverse the planet's open bodies of water. It is what Stanley planned for Benoit Lecomte’s swim across the Pacific Ocean, Jamie Patrick’s swim across Lake Michigan, and Ben Hooper’s swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

But in all other situations and among all other swimmers, viewing of an actual crossing, especially by those out in the world’s oceans, is limited to those fortunate few who are paddling or kayaking alongside the swimmer or who are members of the support crew on the escort boats.

Such was the scenario when Beyond Avalon attempted its 76-mile (122 km) ocean crossing from Santa Catalina Island to La Jolla Cove near San Diego on the California coastline.

While it was recently reported that the relay crossing was halted due to shark encounters (see here), the reality of the situation was much more dramatic and potentially dangerous. But only the eyewitness accounts and a few videos and photos captured the situation.

In a valiant effort to raise money for the Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station, the pod of 12 swimmers (Dan Henry, Dave Speier, William Miller, Steve Miller, Lee Grove, Dana Selles, Mark Zambon, Penny Nagel, Chris Gibson, Jon Rodley, and Jonathan Hands) plotted a course far, far from the Southern California shoreline.

Like the individuals who they were raising money for, the relay was willing to take significant risks on behalf of their cause and for their support of fellow swimmers and citizens.

Grove calmly summarizes the audacious attempt that was called 40 miles from their start. "It really was quite an adventure. And the thought that on that Friday night, all night, while we were swimming in utter darkness - it was pitch black out there - the critters that caused us to eventually abandon ship were swimming all around us, frightens me a little, after the fact."

The critters were, in fact, the apex predators of the deep and the denizens of the domain where Grove and crew challenged themselves.

The relay was fully intended to be non-stop, but the first time the relay stopped for safety purposes, it was Grove who found himself in the water. "We simply saw a number of dorsal fins surface and submerge, repeatedly and at a distance. Penny [Nagel] and Dana [Selles] claim one shark appeared to be large and possibly a Great White. My kayaker was the first to spot one, directly in front of us.

I jumped up on the kayak. We skirted over to the [escort] boat and got out of the water, watching as multiple dorsals surfaced and submerged

Nagel recalls the tense situation, "We held our position in the water. Those sharks were not aggressive, but the fish finder on board showed a lot of activity 30 feet below. Some spotters said it was 7-8 sharks [in total]. We watched them for 5-10 minutes. Then a very large shark came up that I assume was a Great White Shark. It surfaced with a towering fin about 2 feet above the water. After that, the smaller sharks seemed to move on."

Grove's immediate reaction was natural under the circumstances. But even Grove agreed that the sharks did not exhibit any aggressive behavior in their natural environment. After a 30-minute team discussion on the boat, Grove decided to re-enter the water. Will Miller, the co-organizer of the event, offered to accompany Grove for the remainder of his leg. "After my leg, I stayed in the water and accompanied Will for most of his scheduled leg. Everything seemed fine."

Next on the rotation was the lead swimmer, Dave Speier. "Dave was only a few minutes into his swim - believe me my eyes were glued on Dave every second - when a shark surfaced at full speed, almost coming out of the water about 20 feet behind Dave, wildly flapping its caudal fin side-to-side in a beeline toward Dave," recalls Grove. "Most of us on the boat saw this. We yelled, the kayak was right there, within arms reach as we had modified the distances. Dave pulled himself up as the shark submerged and passed under the kayak. This shark was going hunting. No doubt."

Nagel similarly described the shark encounter. "At 10:15, Dave got in the water. We were set to resume with 1 swimmer and 1 kayaker. About 30 minutes into his swim at approximately 10:45, a shark propelled out of the water behind him with his tail whipping rapidly. He went down, then his fin surfaced again as he was swimming fast in a straight line towards the swimmer. He dove down and luckily since everyone was on point, Dave was able to jump on the kayak. When he came aboard, he was cut on his arm and leg from the quick exit onto the kayak."

With Speier and the kayaker out of the water, the team discussed possible courses of action for about an hour as Grove time-stamped the GPS coordinates on interrupted swim (note: the course is posted here). "I have all the GPS data. It is interesting to see the drift of the boat as we sat dead in the water discussing possible approaches. We drifted northeast a fair distance."

Nagel added, "At that point, we agreed that it wasn't safe with the aggressive nature of the encounter, but the Shark Shield was still charging. Two swimmers stated they would not get back in the water and two more said if we did resume, they would swim but not at night. There had been no moonlight on Friday night so it was still going to be extremely dark on Saturday night. They felt we would have no response time in the dark if another encounter happened."

Grove summarized the team's possible courses of action. "We considered having each swimmer wear a Shark Shield and we would stop dead in the water while it recharged. I would be the first in the water to test the Shark Shield's effectiveness. We would be in a very tight formation, almost touching the swimmer from all sides. But in the end, after considering the way the shark came up on Dave, we came to a fairly solid consensus that that type of attack was simply indefensible."

It was an outright scary visual. "That shark was moving so fast that momentum itself guaranteed some form of physical contact between the swimmer and the shark. I didn't even have time to get my mask on, much less enter the water to fend off the shark with a spear. We aborted [the attempt]."

Grove had earlier decided that a Shark Shield was going to be used regardless of expense. He ordered one, although at the time, most of the team believed the equipment was unnecessary. "Then Penny and I starting querying divers and dive shops, hoping to find someone to loan or donate a second device. No luck. So the morning of August 19th, I ordered and paid for the second one. I had it delivered one-day, but it didn't arrive until we were about 20 miles off the coast. But there was no great concern expressed by the team: 'We'll use it at night, and add spotters and decrease distances during the day...'"

Although the team abandoned its attempt last week, they are making plans for another Avalon-La Jolla Passage for 2015. "The team, as a whole, is now in agreement about the need for the Shark Shields at least. And given the mindset of the extraordinary individuals that are on this team, there is already substantial chatter about how we are going to successfully traverse the Avalon-La Jolla Passage next year.

It has been an incredible honor for me to participate in an event that drew such an elite team. Person for person, I believe we represent the standard of selfless devotion to a worthy cause. And as Will is often reminding me, 'Things happen for a reason.' I see our planning, implementation, and real-time response to changing conditions and reality as a standard of behavior for events that go where none have gone before.

For more information on the Warrior Foundation, visit here. For more information on the Beyond Avalon attempt, visit here.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


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."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

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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.

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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.

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Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program