Google search trends and open water swimming

Google search trends and open water swimming

Google has a fun tool that lets you visualize trends in search queries submitted by its users. Google is often the first place people go to find out more about a given topic, so it’s a powerful measure of the public’s “interest” in that topic. Below are a few Google Trends graphs related to open water swimming.

Is open water swimming “growing”? 

search term: “open water swimming”

Some observations:

  • Interest in open water swimming is highly cyclical, with summer peaks and winter troughs. (Obviously.)
  • Two big “spikes” corresponding to the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012.
  • Aside from the seasonal cycles and Olympic spikes, the peaks and troughs do seem to rising slightly over time.

What about two sub-genres of open water swimming: marathon swimming and triathlon swimming?
search terms: “marathon swim” (blue) vs. “triathlon swim”

As expected, triathlon swimming is consistently bigger than marathon swimming. One exception: the surge of interest associated with the London Olympic 10K marathon swim.


What about the Triple Crown events: English Channel, Catalina Channel, and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim?…

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Some miscellaneous items

Some miscellaneous items

It’s a typically slow time of year for my swimming related endeavors. And so it’s been here at the blog, too! A few brief updates:

  • Exciting times at the Island of the Blue Dolphins.

San Nicolas Island is the real-life location of the beloved children’s novel The Island of the Blue DolphinsIt is also the only one of the eight Channel Islands that has never (to our knowledge) been swum to, from, or around. Possibly because the distance between the island and the closest point on the California mainland is more than 61 miles.

Anyway, the island is now owned and operated by the US Navy. Recently, an archaeologist in the employ of said Navy made an exciting discovery: the long-lost cave in which the “lone woman” immortalized in Blue Dolphins apparently made her home in the mid-19th century!

And here’s a follow-up article in the Santa Barbara Independent with some gorgeous photography.

The same Independent writer also recently did a cool story on his hiking explorations of southeast Santa Cruz Island – near where my big swim in September began.…

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SBCSA website gets a refresh

SBCSA website gets a refresh

Have you checked out the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association web presence lately? I finally managed to wrangle the FTP credentials for the site, which had become outdated as our Association has grown. I recently put a solid weekend into “refreshing” the site — and, though the project is not finished, I’m pleased with the progress.

I’ll draw your attention to a few exciting new features:

  • New live sea temperature data widget on the homepage.
  • New “Latest News” section on the homepage.
  • Greatly simplified navigation menu (all pages).
  • Totally re-worked Swim Successes and Records page, which draws content from a Google spreadsheet for easier maintenance.
  • Totally re-worked Conditions page, including a visualization of water temperature trends in the Anacapa Channel.
  • New Live Conditions page, showing live water temp, wind, and surface currents in the Channel.
  • New Live Tracking page, which – if a SBCSA swimmer is currently in the water – will show their SPOT GPS tracks.
  • Totally re-worked News Archives page, which organizes old newsletters, news clippings, and personal swim stories into conveniently expanding/collapsing javascript divs.


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Who is Ashby Harper?

Who is Ashby Harper?

Ashby Harper was the second person to cross the Santa Barbara Channel between Santa Cruz Island and the mainland – and the first to do so by the longer (23.5 mile) route, finishing in Santa Barbara. He did this in 1984, when he was 67 years old.

Princeton senior class picture. Found in the New York Times (6/19/1939) by Morty Berger.

Ashby Harper penned a “jaw-inspiring” article about the swim for Sports Illustrated.

Ashby Harper graduated from Princeton University in 1939, 63 years before I did. He was considered the best all-around athlete of the Class of ’39, earning nine varsity letters — in football, baseball, and (wait for it…) swimming. He trained in a pool that has been lost to history. Dillon Gym pool – considered the “old pool” when I was at Princeton, was not built until 1947. Ashby’s coach was Howie Stepp, whose 163 dual-meet win total was not surpassed until my coach, Rob Orr, came along.

Ashby Harper served as a Navy fighter pilot in World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.…

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A movie that deserves to be made

A movie that deserves to be made

At the SBCSA annual banquet this past weekend, Ben Pitterle and Brian Hall showed a brand-new trailer for their independent documentary film about marathon swimming, DRIVEN. The film features three swims across the Santa Barbara Channel this past summer – including my Santa Cruz Island swim.

See for yourself:

Driven Trailer from Element 8 Productions on Vimeo.

They just started an online fundraising campaign, which will continue for the next 30 days.

THE FUNDRAISING PAGE IS HEREThere are various “perks” available in return for your contributions – including a listing in the closing credits for only $100.

On a personal note…

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog over the past nearly three years – perhaps occasionally to the detriment of my career and personal life. I’ve never made any money from it (just a few affiliate commissions). Indeed, I continuously lose money to web hosting fees.

It’s a labor of love – love for swimming, and love for writing.

Similarly, this film is a labor of love for Ben and Brian.…

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Announcement: The Global Marathon Swimming Awards

Announcement: The Global Marathon Swimming Awards

Along with my friend, fellow swim-blogger, and Marathon Swimmers Forum co-founder Donal Buckley (of loneswimmer.com fame), I am excited to announce the first annual Global Marathon Swimming Awards.

As the name suggests, these awards aim to promote and celebrate the sport of marathon swimming – a unique and historic niche within the increasingly vibrant community of Open Water Swimming. Marathon swimmers – just as our founding father Capt. Webb did nearly 140 years ago – swim long distances in open water without artificial aids.

2012 has been an exciting year for our sport. In addition to the second appearance of marathon swimming at the Olympic Games, numerous solo swimmers have done incredible things in ocean channels, lakes, bays, and rivers across the world.

Few, if any groups – online or in the flesh – are in a more knowledgeable and legitimate position to identify and celebrate these achievements than the MARATHONSWIMMERS.ORG community. At nearly 450 members, the Forum counts a sizeable chunk of the world’s currently active marathon swimmers among its members – and many others who will join their ranks in the coming years.…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 5: The Test

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 5: The Test

In case you missed it…

Sometime between 2 and 3 in the morning, I had decided to spare everyone another (potentially) 10 hours of needless unpleasantness, and end my swim. I was just waiting for the right time; a convenient excuse. If Mark or Cathy or Rob or Dave had said at some point that night, “Evan, it’s pretty rough out here. Maybe you want to get on the boat and go home?”, I can’t say I’d have insisted on continuing.

It’s a testament to the loyalty and intestinal fortitude of my crew and observer that I never got that chance. Three hours later, I was still swimming.

Video still courtesy of Element 8 Productions

At 5:30am, we were halfway across the channel – 8.3 nautical (9.6 statute) miles to go. At 5:45, the first hint of grey appeared on the horizon: nautical twilight. And it changed everything.

As any Catalina swimmer knows: The dark thoughts, the “witches,” are inseparable from the literal darkness of the night.…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 4: The Data

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 4: The Data

In case you missed it:

The shortest-line distance from Santa Cruz Island to the mainland is 16.4 nautical miles (18.9 statute) – starting at San Pedro Point, finishing at the southern end of Hollywood Beach, north of the entrance to Channel Islands Harbor. Capt. Forrest actually plugged in a slightly more distant waypoint – the resort at Mandalay Beach – which made it a 16.6-nautical mile swim. I don’t know why, but that’s what he did.

To break Ned’s record, I had to average 1.59 knots (2:02 per 100m, 2945m per hour) across the channel. To break 10 hours, I had to average 1.66 knots (1:57 per 100m, 3074m per hour). My neutral-condition (i.e., pool) pace for a swim of this distance, at my current fitness level, would be approximately 2.3 knots initially, fading gradually to ~2.05 knots.

My progress for the first five hours (corresponding to the nighttime portion of the swim) was as follows:

  • Hour 1 — 1.4 nautical miles
  • Hour 2 — 1.8 nmi
  • Hour 3 — 2.0 nmi
  • Hour 4 — 1.8 nmi
  • Hour 5 — 1.5 nmi

Given my average progress over hours 1-5 (1.69 knots), the conditions may have been as much as a 20-25% “tax” on my swim speed.…

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Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 3: Demons of Doubt

Santa Cruz Island Swim, Part 3: Demons of Doubt

In case you missed it…

From the beginning, something just felt… off.

The chop disagreed with my stroke – pounding me randomly, from odd angles, making it impossible to develop any sort of rhythm.

The moonless night completely disoriented me. Shortly after the start we had a snafu with the glowsticks on Mark’s kayak, so it was insufficiently lit. He tried using a camping headlamp, but it was so blindingly bright that it seemed worse than the darkness.

It was a constant battle through the night – especially the first few feeds – to maintain a consistent distance from the boat and kayak. They were getting blown around by the wind; I was getting knocked around by the chop; and I had no depth perception to adjust to it.

I made 1.3 nautical miles of progress in the first hour - an incredibly slow pace for me. Possibly there was a head current near the island; but my constant zig-zagging didn’t help. I would bump into the kayak; Mark would yell at me; I’d try to adjust left but then get too close to the boat; Dave, Rob, and Cathy would yell at me; I’d try to adjust right; rinse & repeat.…

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