Should you use swim paddles? A rule of thumb

Should you use swim paddles? A rule of thumb

Swim paddles (in my opinion) are useful for developing swim-specific strength, especially in the shoulders and lats. I prefer Strokemakers:

strokemaker paddles
Strokemaker paddle (size red #3). NOTE: The paddles come with a longer strap meant for the wrist, but don’t use it. That’s goofy. If you need the wrist strap to keep the paddle stable, you’re doing it wrong.

Strokemakers are the classic paddle for competitive swimmers. At various points in my swimming career I’ve used Green #1sYellow #2sRed #3s, and Blue #4s. As a Masters swimmer, I use Reds. As an open-water and marathon swimmer, I feel that the strength I develop with these paddles (which some have derogatorily described as “dinner plates”) helps me power through waves and chop in rough-water conditions.

(Note: I have no financial relationship with the company that makes Strokemakers. Every one of their products I own, I’ve paid for. I just like their paddles.)

There’s a catch, though: It’s probably a bad idea to use these paddles as a beginning (or even intermediate-level) swimmer. You can hurt yourself!…

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The best marathon swims of 2012

The best marathon swims of 2012

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. The question was: How to do it? Who decides? What’s the process?

Long story short: This conversation gave rise to the announcement of the Marathon Swimmers Forum in March.…

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Avila Polar Plunge

Avila Polar Plunge

So, here’s what I did for New Years':

Photo by Ed

Not pictured is the Avila Pier, from which I had just leaped.

See Rob there, already in the water, closest to me, holding a GoPro on his wrist? He’s about to take this picture:

Photo by Rob D, instagrammed by yours truly

The water was nice, about 53F. Typically I would at least wear a cap at this temperature, but I forgot it. Oops. Ice cream headache.

“Errrggmmhh.” Photo by Rob D, instagrammed by yours truly

Here’s Cathy, a somewhat more photogenic jumper:

Photo by Rob D

As it turns out, Cathy and I are experienced hands at this sort of thing. Back in September in Maui, this happened:

(NOTE: For those reading via RSS or email subscriptions, use the link at the bottom of this post to see the video.)

Anyway, the swim back to shore was about 400m. We sat on the beach for the next couple hours, re-warming and eating empanadas with our fellow outlaws.

A fine start to 2013.

Some other reports from the day:



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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?

search terms: “english channel” swim (blue) vs.


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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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