My collaborator and friend Donal Buckley has been writing an eloquent, impassioned, and probably definitive account of l’Affaire Nyad (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5). I will collect my thoughts on The Controversy at some point, but in the meantime please consider Donal’s voice as my own.
What follows is my attempt at a real-time narrative of The Controversy, from the start of the swim the morning of August 31 through the evening of September 8, when a New York Times article by Suzanne Sataline finally forced Diana Nyad and her team to speak to the skepticism among her fellow marathon swimmers about the details of her achievement.
I assemble developments from a variety of sources – the Marathon Swimmers Forum, Facebook, national media outlets, and my personal contacts during this time – into a coherent narrative of a remarkable social media campaign.…
The Associated Press published a well-reported article on the marathon swimming community’s skepticism of Diana Nyad’s swim from Cuba to Florida. I am re-posting it here, with my comments in blue.
Nyad’s team responds to skeptics doubting her swim
By Jennifer Kay – September 8, 2013. 1:13 PM EDT
MIAMI (AP) — Diana Nyad’s 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida has generated positive publicity and adoration for the 64-year-old endurance athlete — along with skepticism from some members of the small community of marathon swimmers who are questioning whether she accomplished the feat honestly.
>> Or rather, swimmers who just want more information, to understand how such an incredible swim was accomplished – a swim that even noted open-water swimming commentator Steven Munatones has said is impossible.…
This past Monday, the most famous and charismatic open water swimmer of modern times, Diana Nyad, emerged from the sea at Key West and fulfilled her dream of swimming the Straits of Florida.
Ms. Nyad’s feat was headline news around the world – probably the biggest mainstream headlines for open water swimming of my lifetime. Millions were inspired by the dogged will of a 64-year old woman, taking on a challenge that had already defeated her four times, and had eluded swimmers half her age and twice her speed.
When she somehow had the presence of mind, still dripping wet, to urge the crowd gathered on the beach: “Never, ever give up… You are never too old to chase your dreams,” well… it was the stuff of movies.…
[Read Part 1]
When we swim in the ocean we share the water with an abundance of other life, some of it larger and toothier than we are. Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. And just because they’re there doesn’t mean they care about us, or want anything to do with us.
Members of the South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club, who share a beach on Aquatic Park, San Francisco, were recently reminded of these truths when a three-foot juvenile salmon shark swam into the cove and spent a few minutes cruising around near our docks. Salmon sharks sport a distinctive white underbelly and are sometimes mistaken for juvenile Great Whites. Though adults can grow to 10 feet long, they’re generally not considered a threat to humans.…
It’s that time of year again! In the weeks leading up to the annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the solo field starts trawling the internet en masse, looking for free last-minute advice. I always know MIMS is approaching when the incoming search-engine hits start spiking for my MIMS 2011 report.
I figured I’d save everyone some time and put all my MIMS posts in one place.
Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 2011
Other MIMS Posts
Some reactions from ’round the intarwebs to recent Freshwater Swimmer posts. I am, as always, grateful for the engagement.
The Global Drowning Prevention Forum picked up on my commentary about the tragedy at the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. As you may recall, I wrote:
In my view, there’s absolutely no substitute for proper training and preparation. … A wetsuit is not going to keep you safe. Swimming competence will keep you safe.
While wetsuits may decrease the chances of an individual person drowning, I believe they actually increase collective risk – by giving people a false perception of safety and encouraging them to put themselves in situations they are not prepared for.
Some interesting discussion ensued. I was particularly gratified by the comment of Audrey D.…
Last month, the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association (SBCSA) became the first major channel swimming sanctioning body to prohibit swimmers from intentionally drafting off the escort boat. The SBCSA prides itself on its position at the vanguard of protecting the integrity of marathon swimming.
Today we are excited to announce another major step forward in ridding our sport of cheaters.
Starting with our 2013 swim season, the SBCSA will be collaborating with the World Anti-Doping Agency and its counterparts, the USADA and ENGSO, to carry out random testing for prohibited substances. We expect that our fellow channel swimming governing bodies, the CCSF, CS&PF, and CSA, will soon be following suit.
What does this mean? Very simply: When you arrive on the beach at the end of your swim, exhausted, chafed, and possibly jellyfish-stung — you’d better be ready to pee in a cup.…
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
Geographical distribution of visits by city
Geographical distribution by country, full year
Geographical distribution by country, first month
Everybody Loves a Controversy
Top Threads, as measured by pageviews:
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:
What’s the right way to decide something like this?
By fiat, like the Freshies? By committee, like induction to the IMSHOF? A vote by a group of journalists, like the Baseball Hall of Fame? Or, like the WOWSA awards, an online poll open to anyone regardless of experience or expertise?
First, some background…
‘Round this time last year, a few of us were discussing some of the great achievements in marathon swimming during the previous year (i.e., 2011). A few of them, truly world-class feats of endurance, on par with anything any famous athlete did in more visible, monetized sports. Penny Palfrey‘s 67-mile swim in the Cayman Islands came to mind. As did Forrest Nelson’s circumnavigation of Catalina.
Yet, as it stood then (in early 2012), no organization existed that was saying to the world, and recording for posterity: These are the most outstanding achievements in marathon swimming this year. …
I was interviewed by Elaine Howley for USMS Swimmer magazine on the topic of selecting crew members for a solo marathon swim. Here’s the article from the January-February issue.
Thanks to Elaine and editor Laura Hamel for the interest. If you are a current USMS member, you can now access the digital edition of SWIMMER from this page (login required).…
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 Dolphins. It 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!…
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.
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 HERE. There 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.…
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.…
I haven’t mentioned it on this site yet (or at least, the nature of my connection with it), but my recent Santa Cruz Island swim will be a subject of an upcoming independent documentary film, DRIVEN.
You will hear more about the film in the coming months. For now, I want to alert readers to the official website – www.marathonswimmovie.com – which includes a page for recent production updates. The most recent update is worth reproducing here:
Last Friday was touch and go as we prepared to film Evan’s Santa Cruz Island crossing. Last minute film crew boat troubles left us scrambling to find another boat to get us out to the islands to film Evan’s swim. Thanks to Dave S. for coming through for us at the last minute!
In the past 15 days I have:
- Swum across the Maui Channel as part of a relay.
- Swum across the Maui Channel solo.
- Observed two SBCSA solo swims from Anacapa Island to Oxnard, one of which was a new record, and the first under 5 hours.
- Observed two Catalina Channel solo swims.
- Swum across the Santa Barbara Channel, solo, from Santa Cruz Island to Oxnard.
At some point, I’ll find the time to write it all up. I appreciate your patience.…
A sobering summary of recent shark activity in Santa Barbara County by Peter Howarth, director of the SB Marine Mammal Center (courtesy of Shark Research Committee):
- 14 April 2012 Shark attacked adult female sea lion off Stearn’s Wharf, Santa Barbara Harbor. Sea lion rescued by harbor patrol, then it was brought to the dock to Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center (SBMMC) volunteers, where it died from shock and blood loss;
- 20 July 2012 Male southern sea otter attacked at Guadalupe Dunes. Rescued by ranger and brought halfway to Santa Barbara, where it was picked up by SBMMC volunteers. Transferred to Mike Harris of CA Dept. Fish & Game for necropsy;
- 15-20 July 2012 Adult female California sea lion attacked, received two bites on pelvic area;
- 25 July 2012 Sea lion above reported on mooring buoy off East Beach, Santa Barbara.
This Thursday from 5:30-7:30pm Pacific time, Laguna Canyon Winery will host a wine tasting / fundraiser for an independent documentary film about marathon swimming. The Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, on whose board of directors I serve, has been involved in the production of this film in several interesting ways. At the wine tasting, the filmmakers will give a brief presentation, answer questions, and show some preview clips.
If you think marathon swimming is cool, and you live in Southern California, please consider attending. It’s a great opportunity to support both the sport and independent filmmaking – not to mention, taste some great wines and hang out with other swimmers. Entry is $35 and can be purchased at the door.
Laguna Canyon Winery is located at 2133 Laguna Canyon Rd in Laguna Beach.…
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’.…