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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Mindset Of An Ocean Swimmer

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Many people call themselves an ocean swimmer. They swim for fun or fitness, charity or competition in the world’s oceans.

But no one is in the category of Benjamin Hooper who is truly aspiring to become a true ocean swimmer. An ocean swimmer who plans to swim across the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Hooper plans to swim 2,000 miles from Africa to South America, swimming every single mile of the Atlantic Ocean throughout his traverse from Dakar Harbour in Senegal in western Africa to his expected finish in Natal in northeastern Brazil. HIs unprecedented stage swim will require him to swim up to 12 hours per day – in two sessions.

He will start each session after drifting a bit as he rests, eats and sleeps. It is practically impossible to start each session in the exact location where he exited in the previous swim because of the total amount of fuel required. The amount of drift while Hooper is on the boat will be reduced by using a sea anchor and the boat engine for control. The drift distance will then be added to the swim in order to ensure every single mile across the Atlantic is swum.

"When you look at the fact that we will need an oil tanker full of diesel, it ain't practical. Instead, we will limit drift. We can get it down to a few miles per day or close to zero depending on weather and sea movement. The miles will be swum within the swim, as we will not swim in a straight line and during the doldrums where the sea is flat; we can go back during my sleep so I can get back in. We can calculate potential drifts at this point and use the Doldrums to our advantage to swim the mileage we will lose out the other side as we go down for Brazil."

While the endurance sports community knows all about physical training and the open water swimming world knows all about acclimatization, what Hooper is setting out on is a tremendous psychological burden. His training of his mind is a most intriguing aspect of the Swim The Big Blue. We asked him about his preparations:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are you doing to specifically prepare mentally and emotionally?

Benjamin Hooper: Mentally, I am training in a multitude of environments and conditions under the guidance of those who are best equipped to advise on endurance, conditioning and physical fitness for my swim. This gives me confidence and safety mentally, that I can take on this epic challenge. For strategies, goal-setting, I am working more specifically with sports psychologists and counsellors. But like so many world firsts before, there is a lot that remains unknown, and we will not know until the swim is under way. Therefore, positive attitude and reinforcement from my team is not only vital now, but will be across the Atlantic.

Emotionally, this past nine months has been a roller coaster of stress, tears, mental and physical pain, excitement, elation, achievement and pure aggression at points. Not only does the training evoke emotion, but the stress of expedition organisation, being let down, pushing one’s self to the maximum to ensure I am best prepared for the swim, takes its toll. There are days where I question myself, days where I begin to wonder if it is possible. But then, I remember why I am doing this. Yes, for charity and yes, because it has not been done before but emotionally, I can draw on my daughter’s inspiration and that of her friends, the look in their eyes, the children and adults I have already inspired to improve their fitness and healthy eating, or simply trying things they never thought possible. Emotionally, this boosts me and reminds me that nothing is impossible, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how hard the swim becomes, my emotional and resilience preparation is now. Beyond this, I am unsure as to whether emotionally I can prepare myself for what is to come. Especially when we do not really know what is to come.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you have family, spouse or children? If so, have you ever been away from them for 3 months before?

Benjamin Hooper: I have a partner and 5-year old daughter, Georgia. They have been beyond incredible in support, inspiration and enthusiasm. Georgia still wants to swim with me across the Atlantic and has just achieved her next swimming qualification. Very early, but I am very proud.

In answer to your question, I have been away from them for extended periods of time, months at a time, and I am sure they would be grateful of the rest to be honest by the time November 2015 arrives. All I do is eat, live, breathe, swim, and train and prepare Swim The Big Blue. As Brock Lesner, WWE superstar, might say: “Eat, Sleep, Train, Swim again…”

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Does the possibility of death or serious injury worry you – or bring a thrill to this adventure?

Benjamin Hooper: Both.

To appreciate we are alive, we must come near to death and experience what it may be to lose all we hold dear, believe we own and possess in our modern lives and I have had both. I came into this expedition with my eyes open. Not only has my understanding from my past employment in the military and police lessened the fear, allowed for greater appreciation of life and how easily it can be lost or taken, but from my childhood and adulthood hero, nominal patron to my expedition, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the greatest living explorer in history and having followed his exploits I can see how death and serious injury can occur, be battled and overcome. If I did not have some fear, worry of death, then I would not be mentally stable.

But, I have already suffered drowning as a child and injuries in adulthood; so no reality check is needed. I believe if I train hard, prepare well and have the best team I can about me, we can reduce risks and minimise the fatality option. Hence why I have constructed not only an excellent training team to ensure I am as prepared as I can be but also putting in place seasoned medics, support crew on the boat and of course my divers, shark experts with experience of distance swims ensures that whilst I am in the water, there is a team to protect me every stroke of the way. My shark team are coming from Key West, Florida headed by Andy Olday, to sail with me. Knowledge cures fears and both my team and I are ensuring that the odds are in my favour as much as possible. We all believe I will make it, not just for me and the charities I support but my daughter Georgia and our sponsors too.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Very few people in the world can imagine the loneliness of open water swimming where so few visual clues are available. How will you deal with doing the equivalent of an English Channel swim every day for 90 days?

Benjamin Hooper: This is a good question and one I think about most days. It links to the mental and emotional game that will play out during the swim. It will be lonely, and I by swimming alone as the likes of Martin Strel did in training, will surely best prepare me for swimming alone. However, during the swim, I will need to be alert for what is beneath me as the shark risk is high, yet constantly being alert will drain resources mentally and physically. In training, I sing songs, listen to music and think about of stories and life. This keeps me company. There will also be elements that creep in from deep sub-conscious which I cannot control, and it is these thoughts, feelings, demons that I will battle alongside the natural elements. I believe there are huge unknown quantities here also, loneliness is something I will encounter and only when on the support boat will I enjoy limited company, and perhaps not feel so alone. This is where the support of my sports psychologist both in training and during the expedition, matters most. The mental preparation and ability to take one hour at a time, not think about the what if’s, keeping negative people and actions away from me during training and the expedition, talking by remote communication during rest to our psychologists, will all contribute to reducing fears and keeping the biggest variable under control, my mental well-being.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: That sort of self-induced isolation is probably only equivalent to explorers walking to the North or South Poles. How does one psychologically prepare for that?

Benjamin Hooper: I am working closely with my support team in understanding the physical, ocean, and myself. Psychological strategies are being discussed but as I know from past experience of lone, long-distance, songs in your ears or head, keep me going. I also have to accept psychologically that the risks are there, isolation is a given and that nobody knows what the outcome will be: mentally or physically. As I said previously, we can draw on psychology supports now, during the swim and the support crew as a whole will play a part in ensuring my success physically and mentally.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What have you done in your life that will help you in this attempt?

Benjamin Hooper: I have always swum. It’s funny in some ways, drowning when I lived in Belgium as a child and been brought back to life on the pool side, had the opposite effect. It only made me more determined to swim and although I am not a professional swimmer, I’ve never competed for GB or county level, I have always swum. Long-distance 10 km, triathlon and some charity swims too. My affinity with the sea continued with PADI scuba and free-diving too, all of which helps with confidence and understanding in what is to come. My resilience and mental strength from service with the military and police, will also support me during training and the swim itself. In these roles, endurance, mental resilience and the ability to adapt to new circumstances and calmly in emergency, all come to help me at this point now and the swim expedition.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Lastly, the need to be extroverted and exploit your ability to market and promote this event seems in contrast to the fundamental introverted nature of marathon swimmers. How do you balance that ying-and-yang in your personality?

Benjamin Hooper: The bottom line is I don’t. I am who I am, and I love talking to members of my community and the public in general whether it be corporations or charities, children or members of my training facilities. I am a little extrovert, but I also enjoy the solitude and introversion that comes with swimming. Like most things in life, it is not black and white, the ying and yang flow like a river, entwined and always going forwards and I adapt to the situation I find myself in at any given time. This is also where it is key to have a team with mixed strengths, experience and attitudes. Medics will offer support physically; psychology and physiotherapy will aide mentally and emotionally, and the sailing crew including a friend of mine John Rogers, will certainly bring different motivations, viewpoints and considerations to the expedition.

All of which will see me overcome the challenges daily and succeed in this epic swim. Most important of all, is that I stay true to myself: Every single mile will be swum – nothing is impossible.

Benjamin Hooper's Swim The Big Blue will be broadcast in its entirely on SmackDab by Doug Stanley and the crew from Ridgeline Entertainment.

For more information, 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

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...


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 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