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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Swimmers Explain What To Do During A Shark Encounter

Photo shows flesh wounds of Steven Robles after a shark encounter along Manhattan Beach in Southern California.

We asked, "If a shark is seen during a training swim by a pod of swimmers, what do ocean swimmers normally do? What should they do? What is the best advice?

If a pod of swimmers are training together along the coast in close proximity to one another, what should they all do when a shark is sighted: stop or scream or scramble or swim (fast, slowly, calmly together)? In contrast, if the swimmers are swimming in the same general direction, but spread out over a wide area (e.g., over 100 meters apart), what should they do?

What reaction makes sense? What precautions are advisable?

In some channel swims (e.g., Cook Strait), swimmers are given the option to get on the boat for 10 minutes as a standard, acceptable safety precaution. In other channel swims (e.g., Molokai or Maui Channel), swimmers simply carry on as the crew stays alert and the swimmer swims close(r) to the boat.

But what happens - or should happen - during training swims, either solo or in groups, especially when there are no escorts available?

Experienced ocean swimmers explain their advice and reactions regarding real-life shark encounters below:

Lynn Kubasek recalls, "I was a Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard Captain in the summer of 1975. The thought of sharks didn't enter into my thought processes at all. I was a pretty mediocre swimmer and I did my first Huntington Beach Pier swim time in 18 minutes - that was the summer of [the movie] JAWS. After I saw that movie, my next pier swim time was 15 minutes. Oh dear...the water is not so clear and the white bubbles emanating off my hands could be the flashing pearly-whites of the man-in-the-grey-suit. Fear is a great motivator.

That movie effected me for many years after, though it did not stop me from enjoying the ocean. I read Devil's Teeth after our Farallones Relay in 2011 and would still do it again. We are not on the menu. I like to think that Patchouli and Lavender and bikinis are a shark deterrent as well. It has worked so far. [Sharks are] fish-eaters. Don't worry about it.

Carol Hayden agrees, "Sharks are everywhere all of the time. I have seen many. I never am scared, just watchful for behavior. Don't worry. They are not interested in you."

Cherie Edborg recalls her experience, "I saw one juvenile [shark] one time and it was gone before I could put my head back into the water after telling Patsee and Marc something was down there. Then I proceeded to swim as fast as I possibly could to shore. Lisa saw one a couple weeks before that and she grouped up with her boyfriend amd swam into shore.

I honestly cant say I would know what I would do if there was a real threat. Swimming Shaws is a little more complicated because we aren't swimming just along the shoreline. I would like to think I wouldn't be freaked out enough that I would be able to attempt to warn anyone near me and then swim to the safest spot into shore

Scott Zornig talks of studies conducted in Australia and the Discovery Channel. "The Discovery Channel stuffed some dummies with chum and put one dummy in black and the other one in something flesh colored. They actually installed robotics in the dummy so they actually moved like a swimmer. The shark went after the black wetsuit each time. The studies done in Australia are yielding similar results.

Look at all the attacks which have taken place in California. I think with the exception of Steven Robles, almost every swimmer was wearing a black wetsuit. Steve's attack has to be completely discounted because of the illegal provoking of the shark. I am not saying that sharks don't attack people without wetsuits because they do, it is just mistaken identity in these cases (i.e., surf, cloudy water, etc.)

The bottom line is that swimmers should distance themselves from seals in both proximity and attire. A swimmer should not swim alone either. My guess is that a person can go in to a case of shock even with the minor attacks and your swim pal could be the difference between life and death."

Julian Rusinek chips in his own personal experiences, "A few years ago I was night swimming around Pismo Beach [California] and was confronted with a very large shark fin silhouette against the moon a few yards away. I was a good 500 yards offshore and knew if I sounded like a panicked seal I would be attacked so I calmly, (but quickly), swam to shore.

Speaking to shark experts over the years, they have come to realize that sharks do scavenge the ocean seeking out easy prey. Injured fish or dead whale carcasses seem to be first on the menu. Studies on swimmers that wear fins give off the "injured fish" sounds that do attract sharks.

The ORCA system [Ocean Recreation Comfort Apparatus] seems to be the new product out there that may be the answer, along with the anti-shark patterned swim suit. This duo is probably the best shark deterrent if you train in shark populated waters

Scott Zornig agrees, "I ordered an [ORCA] not because I am scared of sharks. The white noise is soothing and actually helps me sleep. Right, I am terrified of sharks and would have ordered one for each limb, but the makers told me 1 unit covers the same 130' distance that 4 would. They said I would be wasting my money if I bought 4."

Nan Kappeler, a former competitive swimmer, triathlete and lifeguard, recalls a story she wrote on shark attacks. "The Shark Research Committee, a non-profit scientific research group who documents shark attacks on the Pacific Coast of North America reports only six swimming fatalities since 1952 along the entire coastline of California. But suddenly, the possibility of a shark lurking in the waters near us—is very real.

California State University Long Beach marine biology professor and shark specialist Dr. Chris Lowe said he was surprised to hear of the recent shark attack, especially one that resulted in a fatality. “Humans are not the number one item on a sharks menu and generally don’t come close to shore,” said Lowe. But coupled with the increase of people in the water, and sharks being found closer to shore, Lowe predicts we will see more shark attacks.

Even though many theories exist as to why sharks attack people, Lowe said we really don’t know the answer. “Mistaken id is one theory, but this probably isn’t the only reason for an attack. Why would a shark expend the energy to bite and not come back?” he said. “They may think of us as food, but some may be biting for defensive reasons. We may be invading their territory. The fact is, we really don’t know what a shark is thinking.”

The experts do know that sharks see very well, and see colors, but also depend on other senses such as smell and vibration. “We don’t know how well a shark can see in the marine environment, where the conditions can change quickly from clear to cloudy.” And the chances of a shark mistaking a swimmer in a wetsuit for a seal? “Very little,” said Lowe. “We have no evidence to support the theory that more people wearing wetsuits get bit. People in Florida getting bit aren’t wearing wetsuits

Rusinek hints at the old open water swimming mantra, Expect the Unexpected, "We all think about a shark coming up behind us and picking off a leg or two. Its just natural. Kind of like being alone in the carpool lane and waiting for a Highway Patrol officer to catch you. It might just happen."

Thomas Hale has a similar perspective, "An old business colleague of mine flew a jet in the Vietnam War. To deal with the threat of death from being shot down, he just subscribed to the Golden BB Theory when its time, there is nothing in the world that will stop it from happening. If it is not your time, not a thing in the world can hurt you. That one Golden BB is all you have to watch out for and it's said you will never even see it coming if it is, so go like Hell in the meantime."

Linda Kaiser from Hawaii who has seen numerous sharks in her time in the ocean says, "Just because a shark is seen does not mean it will bite. Sharks are curious and will want to check out what is in their territory. Most times, they will circle and then leave. Seeing a shark is a privilege and rare. Face the shark. If it does become aggressive, charge it and never swim in the open water alone."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

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

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Swim Across the English Channel...


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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 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.

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 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.

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.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program