DNOWS Header

Image Map

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Calling To Action And Filling The Gaps

Curtesy of WOWSA from Huntington Beach, California.

It is a fact that swimmers are often the first responder in open water swims when there is a distressed swimmer on the course.

Although safety personnel, lifeguards, officials, and volunteers create a safety net on the course as they keep eyes on the swimmers, there are occasionally miscues and oversights when the swimmers themselves help others before lifeguards come to the rescue.

Commander Robert Esson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was one of those first responders at the 2014 Huntington Beach Pier Swim.

"I found myself involved in assisting on the rescue of the lady who was attempting to compete in the race, but a few hundred yards offshore she panicked and about to go under," the retired sheriff described the situation. "I swam back in from a point just passed the bait house, and decided not to round the pier, thinking I had cracked ribs from the panicked lady kicking me."

After the Commander responded to the immediate needs of the distressed swimmer as others swam by them, he next turned his attention to drawing the attention of the lifeguards as they quickly effected the rescue and evacuation back to shore. "The Huntington Beach marine safety officers and lifeguards were the true heroes. All I did was lend a voice and an arm to rest on. I pulled her a bit into safer water, and let her hold my arm as I was yelling loudly and waving at the guards for their response. I was [only] a small part of any help."

But that quick action and quick thinking made a big difference on that day.

"Upon seeing my gesture to them, the lifeguards moved with great alacrity and provided respite to the panicked competitor on the rescue board attached to their Jet Ski. They handled the situation with calm demeanor and facilitated the rescue with the utmost of professionalism."

After 31 years on the job as a street-hardened, gently compassionate public safety officer, Commander Esson found that service to others has rewards often unspoken. That innermost pride and satisfaction are things that open water swimmers profoundly appreciate after making a rescue of another person.

Those swimmers who come to the aid of others often wonder why their fellow competitors either did not see what they saw or chose to swim right pass an individual in distress. "While on that day, I was angry at myself for not just finishing, I think I was most upset by the men and women who swam around or even over that lady as she screamed for help. [But in this sport] there are some great folks who have at one time already been called to action in one form or another wherein they filled the gap for another.

There are various levels of a safety net in open water swimming races. At the highest level, there are the race organization's safety personnel, lifeguards, and officials on the water. There are also volunteers, either on the water or spotters and communications specialists on dryland. But the most pervasive safety net in a race are one's fellow swimmers.

"There is a lot that demands 100% awareness in the open water," describes waterman Bruckner Chase. "The top of that list is your fellow swimmers. Rule of the sea and the rule of the open water swimmer: assist those in need to the best of your ability. If you are in doubt of that ability? Yell and get the attention of others who have the training and equipment to respond."

The eyes and ears of any event's safety personnel are always augmented by the swimmers themselves. The larger the swim, the more helpful swimmers can be for their fellow swimmers.

"In the spirit of helping others and doing the right thing, we always encourage swimmers - however competitive - to look around at their fellow athletes during their races especially during large mass participation swim," says former lifeguard Steven Munatones. "If you see something, do something. Stop and swim over to the swimmer. Ask if they are OK. If they are in obvious distress, swim up behind them. If you are strong enough, initiate the rescue. If you are not strong enough to make a rescue, stop a fellow swimmer who might be. Do not swim around or ignore a swimmer in need. Lend a hand, lend a shoulder, or lend your voice at the very least. Yell out for help and attract attention to help resolve the problem."

A swimmer in need is a friend indeed.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

1 comment:

  1. I would like to ensure that everyone knows that the City of Huntington Beach Marine Safety Officers and Lifeguards were the true heroes. All I needed to do was to lend a voice, an arm to rest on and signal the nearby lifeguards. Upon seeing me gesture to them, the lifeguards moved with great alacrity and provided respite to the panicked competitor on the rescue board attached to their jet ski. They handled the situation with calm demeanor and facilitated the rescue with the utmost of professionalism. The City of Huntington Beach Marine Safety and Lifeguards are heroes of the Pacific completing rescues of thousands every year, on this June morning they were heroes to the stricken competitor and to this old competitor.
    Robert Esson, Commander, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (retired)


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

The Staff of the 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.

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