Revenge of the Skin Swimmers

Revenge of the Skin Swimmers

As regular readers know, I can be irritable on the subject of distinguishing between swimming and wetsuit-assisted swimming. So, I should offer credit where credit is due.

Today begins the 75th annual Semana Nautica sports festival – a grand celebration of the Santa Barbara lifestyle, with most events taking place in or near the ocean. Growing up, I participated in the age group swim meet at Los Baños Pool; nowadays, I do the open-water swimming events. Semana Nautica offers three ocean swimming races: 1 mile, 3 miles (both at East Beach), and 6 miles (Goleta Beach to Arroyo Burro Beach).

Semana Nautica ocean swims do not offer separate categories for wetsuits and skins. Actually, wetsuits are not allowed at all. If you show up in a wetsuit, your name will show up in the results next to the letters ‘DQ’. The entry form states bluntly: No swim fins, hand paddles, or wet suits allowed.

The 6-mile entry form takes it a step further:

As in the tradition of open water swimming, the use of wet-suits or other non-porous attire, kickboards, gold chains, booties, paddles, swim buoys, body suits, triathlon suits, fins, gloves, or other wimpy contraband will not be allowed.

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Race Report: Reef & Run #1

Race Report: Reef & Run #1

My sleepy little beach town of Santa Barbara has not just one – but two! – weekly summer evening splash n’ dash series. Nite Moves, now in its 23rd season, is Wednesdays at Leadbetter Beach, and involves a 1000m swim and/or a 5km run up Shoreline Drive. Reef & Run, a more recent addition to the local scene, is Thursdays at East Beach and offers the choice of a 500m, 1000m, or 1-mile swim followed (select weeks only) by a beach run.

Last week I participated in the season-opening Reef & Run, which was free to all comers. From a swimmer’s perspective, it has a lot to recommend it:

  • meatier, 1-mile swim (plus 500m and 1000m options)
  • locker room and showers at the Cabrillo Bathhouse
  • more affordable $120 season pass (or $15/day)
  • large, easily-sighted buoys
  • East Beach is, quite simply, a great beach – one of the best in town.
East Beach and Cabrillo Bathhouse. Photo by Flickr user Damian Gadal

Neither series distinguish between wetsuits and skins in the results – which is an argument I may never win.…

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MIMS 2012

MIMS 2012

I will be live-tweeting the 2012 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim from NYC Swim’s Twitter account – follow along at twitter.com/nycswim, starting around 10:20am Eastern, Saturday.

Many friends will be in the water, on the water, or otherwise involved in this great celebration of marathon swimming. I wish everyone the best.

For convenience, here are links to my report from MIMS 2011:



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Good Workouts and Bad Workouts

Good Workouts and Bad Workouts

100×100 may be “the most famous of all distance swimming sessions” – but I’d never actually done it… until last Friday. Mark invited me to his USA-S squad’s morning practice, for reasons unspecified, and had this “special surprise” waiting for us: 100×100 (SCY), as:

  • 10 @ 1:30, warm-up
  • 10 @ 1:20
  • 10 @ { 2 @ 1:15, 3 @ 1:10, 3 @ 1:20, 2 @ 1:30 }
  • 6x: 10 @ { 4 @ 1:10, 3 @ 1:30, 2 @ 1:05, 1 @ 2:10 }
  • 10 @ 1:30, cool-down

Normally this would be a make-able (if challenging) set for me. Unfortunately, Friday was not a normal day. For whatever reason, my body was just not cooperating. I lifted weights on Thursday, but I don’t think that entirely accounts for it. It was just one of those days.

I have a “lead balloon” day once a month or so. I recognize it within minutes of getting in the water. Wow… I’ve got *nothing* today. On such days, I usually adjust my plans. Slow drilling, sculling, kicking… anything but a distance-overload set on tight intervals.…

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Race Report: Point Bonita to Aquatic Park, San Francisco (Part 2)

Race Report: Point Bonita to Aquatic Park, San Francisco (Part 2)

When we left off in Part 1, I stood aboard the SERC boat Dauntless, trying to summon feelings of, well… dauntlessness. I wore one blue polyester Speedo Endurance square-leg, two caps (yellow latex on orange silicone), blue Malmsten Swedes, and earplugs. I’d never worn earplugs before, but I think they helped quite a lot in keeping the cold at bay.

At the start. Photo by Lee Bruno

The nearest ocean buoy read 54.6F; the buoy inside the Bay was about a degree warmer. After reciting DBAP a few times, I leaped off the side of the boat – about a 4-foot drop. The water felt… actually pretty nice! I swam up to Cathy and wished her a fun paddle. She should have been in water instead of me; but as Plan B’s go, this was alright.

Point Bonita swim course
Swim course: boring Google Maps view

The tide tables showed a slack current at 7:29am, max flood at 10:33am. We set off around 9:15, I think? So there was already a pretty good push – sucking us into the Bay.…

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Race Report: Point Bonita to Aquatic Park, San Francisco (Part 1)

Race Report: Point Bonita to Aquatic Park, San Francisco (Part 1)

Swimmers in parkas milled about, organizing their nutrition and applying lube. Paddlers secured their kayaks and stuffed dry-bags. Other volunteers helped launch Zodiac boats. It was earlier than most preferred to be awake on a Sunday morning… but the tides of San Francisco Bay wait for no one.

The Golden Gate as seen from Point Bonita. Photo by Flickr user Bob Franks.

Swimming in the Bay, the tides are king. The rising waters of the flood and the falling waters of the ebb must squeeze through the narrow Golden Gate Strait – magnifying the currents. The morning of June 3, we would be pushed through the Strait by a max 4.6-knot flood – impossible for even the fastest swimmers to fight, even briefly. Faster than any of the river currents at MIMS.

This would be my coldest swim of more than an hour in duration; it would also be my longest swim in water cooler than 61F/16C (my four-hour MIMS qualifier in September 2010 was 61F).

And it would be my sharkiest swim. Sharks aren’t common inside the Bay, but Point Bonita is almost three miles west of the Bridge – solidly in the Red Triangle.…

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In open-water swimming, wetsuits are the exception, not the default

In open-water swimming, wetsuits are the exception, not the default

One of the more popular long-distance open water races in the US is the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. A 4.4-mile point-to-point swim across the bay and between the two spans of the Bay Bridge, the GCBS routinely sells out months in advance.

The 2012 GCBS was today. A couple friends were swimming, so I was browsing the results just now. And I was reminded of why I will never do this swim.

Here are the results. They probably don’t mean anything to you… but what if I told you that eight of the top ten finishers wore wetsuits! Yet the main results page doesn’t specify whether the swimmer was artificially assisted by neoprene. There’s a separate non-wetsuit results page – but it’s relegated to a separate link. As if it’s of secondary importance. As if they are the exceptions.

Nor do the age-group awards distinguish between swimmers and wetsuit-assisted swimmers.

I respectfully disagree. Skin swimmers aren’t the exceptions. They are the default. This is not triathlon. In open-water swimming, wetsuits are the exception.…

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