One year in the life of a marathon swimmers forum

One year in the life of a marathon swimmers forum

One year (and one week) ago, Donal and I launched the Marathon Swimmers Forum with the following mission statement:

  • To celebrate and promote the sport of marathon swimming.
  • To foster connections and information sharing among the global community of marathon swimmers.
  • To provide an educational resource for aspiring marathon swimmers.

Donal and I are both pretty proud of what’s happened since then. Just by the numbers, 565 confirmed members have contributed 5,437 posts in 400 separate discussion threads. Even better, the quality of the contributions has been gratifyingly high.

To celebrate the Forum’s first birthday, here’s a quick peek at the site analytics:

A Global (yet, to be honest, mostly anglophone) Community

analytics_map
Geographical distribution of visits by city

unique_ctry
Geographical distribution by country, full year

Geographical distribution by country, first month
Geographical distribution by country, first month

Everybody Loves a Controversy

Top Threads, as measured by pageviews:

New Year, New Look

New Year, New Look

If you are an email or RSS subscriber, you may not have noticed the new banner image:

The WordPress theme has also been updated and the menus have re-arranged a bit. Come check it out sometime.

Anyway, the new banner image shows me stroking along in the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel. There’s Cathy in the kayak (this must have been about 7 hours into the swim), and behind her the Fuji III (containing Rob, Mark, Dave, Ben, Capt. Forrest), heading off at a strange angle. The photo is actually a GoPro still-frame from Ben, one of the filmmakers behind the documentary DRIVEN.

For old-times’ sake, here’s the previous banner image – that’s me warming up at the Noblesville 10K in July 2010.

freshwater swimmer
Freshwater Swimmer header image, 2012.

Incidentally, if you’re an RSS subscriber, you may have heard the sad news of Google Reader‘s impending demise. If you’re shopping around for a new feed reader, I recommend checking out Newsblur and Feedly. Feedly is slicker and prettier; Newsblur is closer to Google Reader’s layout and may be preferable for power users.…

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March Miscellany

March Miscellany

A few items of interest:

  • The Siljan Diary” – a new and very worthwhile blog by Dave Van Mouwerik as he prepares to swim the length of Lake Siljan in Sweden. Dave is a fellow SBCSA director and was the official observer of my Santa Cruz Island swim. He’s a deep thinker, an excellent writer, and this blog is a must-read for anyone interested in how unique marathon swims happen – from the initial spark of an idea, to the planning, to the execution. 
lake siljan swim
Dave’s planned swim route across Lake Siljan, Sweden.
ted erikson
Ted Erikson at Promontory Point in Chicago. Photo by Michael Goss.
  • A re-edited version of my Catalina Channel video (using my newfound video editing skills and better software):

Catalina Channel solo swim from Evan Morrison on Vimeo.

That’s all for now!…

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The Alcatraz Swimming Society

The Alcatraz Swimming Society

Recently I had the pleasure of joining the Alcatraz Swimming Society (ASS) for one of their weekly swims. The ASSes are a few South Enders who really, really like to swim to (and from) Alcatraz. The day I swam, it was co-founder Gary Emich‘s 985th Alcatraz crossing (!). Gary and Stevie Ray Hurwitz (also in the water) are in a heated but friendly race to 1,000 crossings.

We jumped at 6:45am from Pier 33 into slack-ish 51.1-degree water. Air temp was around 50-flat, putting the combined “open water chill factor” right at the feared 100 barrier. Heightening the thermal challenge were 10-knot winds (gusting to 15) out of the SW.

Sync-swimming with Stevie Ray.
Sync-swimming with Stevie Ray.

I entered the water last, sprinted for a couple minutes to catch up to the others (and also to warm up), and then started filming. Swim, pause, film — rinse & repeat. At one point I was even doing single-armed backstroke while holding the wrist-mounted camera steady on the other arm.

The video’s a little bumpy (but so was the ocean):

Swimming to Alcatraz in March from Evan Morrison on Vimeo.…

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Same Water, Different Worlds: A tale of two swims in San Francisco Bay

Same Water, Different Worlds: A tale of two swims in San Francisco Bay

Last weekend I had the pleasure of escorting Cathy on a big, cold swim in San Francisco Bay to celebrate her birthday. We’re calling it the “Three Bridges” swim: She swam from the Third Street Bridge in McCovey Cove (the original location of the South End Rowing Club in 1873), under the Bay Bridge, and under the Golden Gate Bridge, before finishing at Kirby Cove on the Marin Headlands.

3bridges_gps

8.7 miles in 2 hours, 10 minutes (with a push from the ebb tide) in 51-degree water, without a wetsuit. It was a damn impressive, inspiring swim, and I’ve never seen Cathy swim so well. She seems totally at home in cold, rough water – and indeed she seems to thrive, the worse conditions become.

With El Sharko‘s steady hand at the tiller, I managed the feedings and aimed my GoPro:

Cathy’s “Three Bridges” SF Bay Swim: 3rd St, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate from Evan Morrison on Vimeo.


Some interesting and sad context to Cathy’s swim: It was (coincidentally) the same morning as the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, during which one of the athletes died in the swim leg.…

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Interview with Coach Mark

Interview with Coach Mark

As I mentioned, Mark Warkentin (2008 10K Olympian, crew member on my Catalina swim, crew member on my Santa Cruz Island swim, and all-around good guy) was recently named head coach of the Santa Barbara Swim Club, the team we both grew up swimming with. Mark has been on the job a couple months now, and by all accounts things are going great. The future of swimming in Santa Barbara is bright indeed.

Here’s an interview he just did with SwimSwam:

[youtube_sc v=17YQaTIwePo w=600]

Mike Lewis (author of other hard-hitting works of journalism) does a pretty good job keeping the conversation relevant to open water swimming, given the irony that Mark coaches mostly sprinters.…

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Marathon Swimming Rules Survey: Results and Analysis

Marathon Swimming Rules Survey: Results and Analysis

Marathon swimmers talk a lot about rules – what should and shouldn’t be allowed during a swim – but as far as I know, there has never been any systematic study of what marathon swimmers actually think, as a matter of public opinion.

Perhaps most would agree that goggles are OK, and fins are verboten… but what about swim streamers and stinger suits? Or drafting off the escort boat? If you only read blogs and forums, you might assume the most vocal opinions represent the majority. But do they really?

Earlier this month the SBCSA launched a survey to find out. Over 25 days, we received 175 responses from around the world.


First, a Summary of Findings (TL/DR). Click any of the following links to skip directly to the relevant section.

I. We received responses from a representative sample of marathon swimmers – current, former, and aspiring.

II(a). Marathon swimmers agree on basic channel-rules attire: traditional porous textile swimsuit (including jammers), goggles, one latex or silicone cap, ear plugs, and nose clips.…

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Maui Channel Relay: The Video

Maui Channel Relay: The Video

Last September I joined some San Francisco friends in Maui for a memorable few days of swimming and leisure (but mostly leisure). You may have seen the short video I posted a while back of my solo Maui Channel swim. Two days before the solo, I did the same swim with my friends in the annual Maui Channel Swim Relays.

So, this video has been a long time in the making. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing? Nothing beats the February doldrums like Hawaii (or at least, thinking about Hawaii).

The relay was loads of fun and mostly uneventful, with the unfortunate exception of our third swimmer getting tangled in a jellyfish (probably a box) only a few minutes into her 30-minute leg. She got on the boat and (as allowed by the rules) we turned off the engine and floated in place. At the next change-over, we put our next swimmer in the water and continued on our way.

We all got “zapped” a few times by jellies, but we made it to the finish at Kaanapali Beach without further incident.…

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The only three things that matter in channel swimming

The only three things that matter in channel swimming

I truly believe that a Channel Swim – performed under traditional rules – is among the greatest athletic feats that a human can achieve.

We are terrestrial animals, adapted to surviving on land with the assistance of clothing and shelter. We are capable of great efficiency of movement - on solid ground.

A Channel Swim turns all this on its head. Without shelter… naked but for a porous, skimpy textile garment… we step offshore into an environment we are terribly adapted to, and terribly inefficient at moving through. As the ocean floor drops beneath our ability to stand, and the cold begins its creeping march from the extremities to the core – there are really only two options: Swim to the other shore… or get on the boat.


I have another belief, which might seem to contradict or undermine my first belief (that a Channel Swim is one of the greatest athletic feats a human can achieve). And that is:

Almost any able-bodied human can accomplish a Channel Swim.

You don’t need to be athletic, or coordinated, or physically strong.…

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Take the marathon swimming rules survey

Take the marathon swimming rules survey

If these discussion threads at the Marathon Swimmers Forum are any indication, marathon swimmers love to argue about rules. This is not surprising; rules define the boundary conditions of our sport, what is and is not a “marathon swim.” The beauty of marathon swimming derives, at least in part, from its purity and asceticism — its prohibitions against things that would make it easier.

Take the survey HERE

Debates and hand-wringing occasionally arise due to a few “local variations” on marathon swimming rules: