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Monday, February 20, 2017

What Is Your Least Favorite Open Water Swim?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Swimmers from around the world described their perfect swim here. Today, in contrast, a handful of swimmers explained their least favorite open water swim:

Pat Gallant-Charette (Maine, USA): Without hesitation, my least favorite swim occurred during a training session along the coast of Maine. I was swimming with a friend in choppy conditions about 100 yards offshore in water depth of six feet. When suddenly out of nowhere, a huge wave crashed over me. I was forcefully sent tumbling to the ocean floor and struck my right shoulder. I was doing somersaults in the turbulence while holding onto my attached safety floatation device. I was being tossed like a rag doll. Finally, I was able to stand and walk onto the beach. I felt lucky to have survived this ordeal. However, I needed shoulder surgery due to trauma from the blunt force.

Adrian Sarchet (Guernsey): My least favourite swim was my very first 'official' open water swim - the 4.5 km swim from the Island of Guernsey to the Island of Herm. I had been out of the water for more than 20 years and had agreed to take part in a group charity swim for a veteran's support charity. Returning to swim training after so long resulted in a dramatic change to my waistline. So dramatic in fact, that the youngsters in my office invited me to take part in a charity soccer match. During that soccer game I severed the Achilles tendon in my right leg and woke up the next day in one of those huge and horrible moon boots they put you in to fix such injuries. I remember being more disappointed at letting the charity and the team down than I was about the injury. So after one very difficult conversation with my surgeon, I started learning to swim in a moon boot with my legs tied together. And I completed the swim in that fashion a short while later. The swim was my least favourite because the moon boot acted as a giant rudder and left me swimming in circles the whole time.

Barry O'Connor (Ireland): Spending 8 hours fighting against a spring tide and a strong headwind, to burning out, and not make the end of the swim. While watching the kelp underneath change direction to.point the same way as I am. Pure frustration.

Pam Lazzarotto (Canada): Swimming alone in cold water with leaky goggles and poor visibility due to fog or no trees or buildings for sighting.

Harry Huffaker (Idaho, USA): Mega ditties to Pam. Masochism has never seemed to do much for anyone.

Vicki Keith (Canada): My least favourite swim was my attempt at swimming butterfly across the Catalina Channel in 1989. Don't get me wrong, the environment was incredible and the water was beautiful, but I let myself down that day. I remember walking into the green waters of Emerald Bay and swimming away from the shore, thriving in the beauty of the clear waters. I was surrounded by beauty, but I wasn't where I needed to be mentally.

I remember that the name of my lead boat was the Cold Spaghetti. All day long as I followed the boat I read the name every time I took a forward breath. Cold. Cold. Cold. It was a beautifully, warm swim, but I felt cold because that's what I was telling my brain. When nighttime hit, I couldn't draw my brain back where it needed to be. I struggled mentally for hours. A shark swam underneath me, and then turned and went underneath me a second time. Without breaking my stroke, I called for the light to be swung over in my direction. As the light shone my way I watched the shark's tail disappear and it was gone.

I continue to swim for another hour, but when my crew came to me and told me their concerns about sharks in the vicinity and being in the middle of the shipping lane, I had no mental strength left. When they told me they thought I should get out, I didn't discuss it or question it like I normally would. Defeated, I just got out. The second I touch the boat, I knew it was an error, but it was too late.

This mental breakdown and the results of the unfinished swim ate at me until the end of that same summer, when I was able to come back and complete the swim.


Miquel Sunyer (Spain): My least favourite swim is probably when I train in cold water, sometimes at 12ºC, and I start to not feel the toes. Then, how painful is when I recover the normal toes temperature.

Gary Emich (California, USA): It's 6:30 am and pitch black out. The air temperature is 43ºF and the water temperature is 49ºF, a sub-100 morning. Winds are blowing from the northwest at 17 knots and the rain is coming down in torrents. I know where I should be: at home in my flannel sheets snuggling with my wife. Instead, I'm standing on the beach in my swimsuit at San Francisco's South End Rowing Club along with a handful of other like-minded lunatics. From the frying pan into the fire I plunge and the cold explodes all over me. My body feels like every square inch is on fire, stabbed by miniature daggers. My body tries to shut down. "Breathe, breathe, breathe, stroke, stroke, stroke," I tell myself. After several minutes the icy water has numbed me, but those first few minutes are pure torture. Why have I continued to do this for the past 20 years?

Jennifer Figge (Colorado, USA): Looking back, I might think that that the strait of Tiran to Egypt would be a least favorite swim. Tasting something 'not nice' in the water...I raised my head and the crew pointed to a three leveled ship of sheep, being transferred from New Zealand to Jordan, where their droppings were shoveled into the Red Sea. Swimming in sheep sewage made me realize I must really love this sport.

Tamara Bruce (Australia): My least favourite swim would be constant boat problems, sore shoulders, and feeling alone in the open water.

Patti Bauernfeind (California, USA): I only have one standout swim that was my least favorite since it was the most stressful. I grew up in Florida so I know very well that the expression 'a gator is in every Florida lake' is true. Yet, I went along on with Jim Alabiso for a swim in a spring-fed lake during a trip back home. Since it was lined with boat docks with kid slides, I took that to be a sign of 'no gators here' and tried to push aside any anxiety.

However, I anxiously swam the entire time. The water was the color of Earl Grey tea so I really couldn't see what was around me. I was plagued by a feeling of unease, a lot of unease really. I kept remembering the look of the fisherman we met right before getting in the water after we told him our plans. He asked 'Ya'll from around here?' In Florida, that was a polite way of noting that you are NOT from around there and you are about to do something that a local wouldn't do. In this case, swim across the lake. For good reason, a local would stick stay close to shore or go out in a boat. He did wish us well which was genuine.

It was a lovely lake and it was worth the swim, but I will now stick to just a few places to swim in Florida where I can swim blissfully rather than fretfully. No body of water is entirely risk-free, but some conditions or creatures are notably more dangerous. It's alligators and jellyfish for me. But I'll take the jellies over gators any day.


Calum Hudson (UK): Urban city swim, there is a place in London where I train called Shadwell Basin, it's right next to Thames and grey and dank, it's got the odd shopping trolly in and city swimming just reminds me I'm not out in the wild open waters of the world.

Steven Munatones (California, USA): I do not mind the presence of waves, currents, tides, jellyfish, sharks or kelp during open water races as much as I do swimmers who purposefully pull on ankles and thrown their elbows at other swimmers around turn buoys. While I understand their sense of competition, I dislike swimmers who purposefully grab at, punch or scratch others; their overzealous physicality makes these races a deep disappointment.

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