Why independent observation and verification is essential for marathon swimming, Reason #3425

Why independent observation and verification is essential for marathon swimming, Reason #3425

Don’t think for a second that this couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen, or hasn’t happened, in marathon swimming:

“Marathon Man” (by Mark Singer). In The New Yorker, August 6, 2012.

Related question: If Diana Nyad touching the boat during her feeds hadn’t been captured on video, would we have ever known she was doing this?

Also See: Two Golden Rules of Open Water and/or Marathon Swims (LoneSwimmer)…

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Menaces to (swim) society: How to be a pool asshole

Menaces to (swim) society: How to be a pool asshole

Do you enjoy enraging your fellow swimmers? Do you want your lanemates to secretly hate you – or possibly even overtly hate you?

If so, I made a list just for you. The Top 10 Petty Annoyances of Organized Pool Swimming. A handy guide to sowing chaos in an organized swim workout. Think of them as descending circles of Hell.

Courtesy of Swimming Memes

If you want to be a pool asshole, here are a few suggestions:

10. Swim right on someone’s feet during warm-up.

9. Cheat during the non-swimming portions of the workout — pulling when you’re supposed to be kicking; full stroke when you’re supposed to be drilling.

8. Pull on the laneline in backstroke.

7. During a distance set, when a faster swimmer in the adjacent lane approaches, suddenly speed up and “race” the faster swimmer, perhaps only for a lap or two.

6. Join a lane with slower swimmers, lead the lane, and then unilaterally change the interval so nobody else gets any rest.

5. Join a lane with faster swimmers and fail to make the interval except by using fins or paddles, or by stopping every few laps.…

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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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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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Sharks Live in the Ocean

Sharks Live in the Ocean

So, there was this local news item last week. While Santa Barbara isn’t typically a hotbed of shark activity, this was a reminder that indeed, sharks do live in the ocean.

That’s right, readers. Sharks live in the ocean.

great white shark

It’s always interesting to observe how ocean swimmers deal with this fact.

Some take a spiritual, new-agey approach: If you just, you know, become one with the ocean and don’t give off the “fear signal,” the sharks will leave you alone. Fittingly and rather ironically, these people often are residents of San Francisco. (It’s OK, I used to be one.)

Others avoid the issue with euphemisms: “Man in the Grey Suit,” or “The Landlord,” or “Old Whitey”… or, most comically of all, “the S-word.” I guess the idea is, if you don’t talk about it, maybe it’ll go away.

Others put their faith in technology. Because obviously, the 6-meter, 2-ton “fish” attacking from below at 25mph is going to respect the little Shark Shield zapper dangling off the end of the kayak. Good luck with that.

And then there are kooks like this guy.…

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Letters from Connie: Why?

Letters from Connie: Why?

The second in a series of posts inspired by Conrad Wennerberg‘s classic Wind, Waves, and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming.


In a brief chapter titled, simply, “Why?”, Chairman Connie ponders marathon swimmers’ reasons. In the end he concludes, basically, Why ask why? – but he offers some intriguing thoughts and observations along the way. One passage is particularly striking:

In my twenty years of observing the world-champion swimmers I have discovered an interesting common denominator. It became evident while discussing their personal lives with them. Hours of conversation with fourteen swimmers… brought to light the fact that twelve of them were under severe emotional tension during the time they were champions. Only two were not under such tension and seemed to have planned a course of action that led to their achievement without emotional involvement.

The others were reacting to the tensions incurred by: (1) the breakup of a marriage and divorce; (2) loss of a job; (3) sexual maladjustments. Physiologists tell us that such serious threats to one’s personal life are manifested by bodily response.



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Very Important Announcement

Very Important Announcement

This summer I will attempt something truly audacious… groundbreaking… unprecedented… game-changing.

I will attempt to (ahem…) cross the English Channel. Not once, not twice or even thrice. Ten times. Consecutively. 210 miles without stopping.

Needless to say, this has never been achieved by a swimmer. Which is not to say I’ll be swimming. Indeed, I’ll be doing everything possible in order to not swim. Actually swimming 210 miles would be far too difficult.

I will be aided in my quest by several important tools:

1. A monofin. I’m thinking the Competitor model from FINIS looks pretty sweet.

2. Paddles. But not just any old paddles. Special paddles. My usual training paddles (Strokemakers) are sometimes mocked as “dinnerplates,” which frankly hurts my feelings. So I’m taking it one step further. I will be using actual dinnerplates as paddles. Fine china, in fact. I’m happy to count Lenox among the proud sponsors of my “swim.”

3. A drysuit. Because I don’t want any part of my body to actually touch the water. Did you know, the English Channel is apparently cold!…

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