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Wikipedia:Open water swimming

Open water swimming is an activity in which people swim in large, outdoor bodies of water such as oceans, bays, lakes and rivers.

In the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the swimming competition was held in open water. The success of triathlon led to an increase in interest and participation in open water swimming. The triathlon made its Olympic debut at the Sydney Games in 2000 and involves an open water swim of 1500 meters (1.5 kilometers). Open water races of 5, 10 and 25 kilometers are held in the annual General Fina World Championships.

There are many events around the world which attract large numbers of open water swimmers, including the Rottnest Channel Swim and the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. On October 27, 2005 the International Olympic Committee added the 10 km open water swim as a 2008 Olympic event.[1]


The only equipment needed for open water swimming is a swim suit. A brightly colored swim cap is recommended to enhance visibility and may be required for some organized swimming events and races.

The use of wetsuits is controversial in open water swimming, with many participants believing that wetsuits give some swimmers an uncompetitive advantage. Some open water swimmers, in fact, believe that wearing a wetsuit is contrary to the spirit of the sport, and that people who wear the suits should be the objects of derision. Unlike triathlons, which allow swimmers to wear wetsuits when the water is below a certain temperature, most open water swim races either don't allow the use of wetsuits (usually defined as anything covering the body above the hips or below the knees), or put wetsuit-clad swimmers in a separate category and/or make them ineligible for race awards.

Long Distance Swimming[]

Long distance swimming (also known as marathon swimming) is a form of open water swimming that involves swimming across large bodies of open water such as the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and the English Channel.

The swims can be in the open sea, ocean, lakes, rivers or other watercourses.

There are organized long distance swimming competitions around the world, but there are also many athletes that swim solo. The swims are accompanied by a nearby boat crew that monitors and coaches the swimmer.

Marathon swimming is an endurance sport that pits a lone swimmer against all that a body of water can offer and is defined by International Swimming Federation to be at least 10 kilometers in length. According to International Swimming Federation rules, swimmers cannot use wet suits. Wet suits provide extra buoyancy that can lead to artificially increased speed, or apparent endurance, of the person wearing the suit. Even in the frigid waters of the English Channel, the marathon swimming governing bodies refuse to recognise or monitor swims involving the use of wet suits. American swimmer Ted Erikson, who swam the second two-way crossing of the English Channel in 1965, likens wearing a wet suit in a marathon swim to completing the Tour de France on a moped.



Youth and Open Water Swimming[]

Simon's article in October 2012[]

When looking at open water swimming race results recently I've noticed increasing numbers of the letters MY, MJ, FY and FJ appearing near the top of the rankings. The letters indicate youth and junior categories for both sexes. For us older swimmers, while it is slightly depressing to be pushed ever further down the results list, it has to be a good thing for the sport, and for society.

If you look further, in some races you'll now see youngsters represented throughout the results list, which is even more encouraging as it means open water swimming is not just appealing to top-level club swimmers but also to teenagers who are not necessarily in regular training. Unfortunately not all race organizers cater for youngsters. Some events are restricted to the over 18s, or the bar is set variously at 12, 14 or 16 years.

There are good reasons for this. Open water swimming involves a degree of risk. We accept that adults can choose to put themselves at risk but we are rightly more cautious about letting children do the same. The consequences of the death of a child in an event would be devastating for any organizer and possibly for the on-going participation of children in open water swimming. There are also concerns about child protection and insurance.

On the other hand, a report out today from the Young Foundation paints a grim picture of the cost of sloth and describes today's youngsters as the 'most inactive generation in history'. It says that "a recent survey found that five- to sixteen-year-olds in Template:Britain spend on average nearly six hours per day in front of screens," and that it costs the UK economy £8.2 billion per year to sustain inactive Britons.

Could it be that by trying to keep youngsters safe and restricting their access to open water swimming we are putting them at greater risk in the long term of all the health issues that accompany limited activity? The report goes on to suggest a number of policy recommendations to encourage increased participation in sport at all levels. It should also mention removing barriers to participation in mass start open water swimming events.

Children learn by example. If they see their parents taking part in and enjoying open water swimming, many will want to do the same. At some events you see three generations from the same family taking part, and it's amazingly satisfying for both parent and child when the child swims faster. But some organisers still feel uncomfortable about youth participation.

Cornwall seems to be ahead of the game in this area. The annual Newlyn to Penzance swim always attracts a good contingent of youngsters and last weekend saw the first running of the St. Ives Bay open water swim, where children clearly enjoyed the event (see picture of the week). Perhaps it's the Cornish surfing culture and the habit of putting kids into the sea to play, body board and surf from an early age that encourages organisers to support youth swimming.

Whatever the case, it shows that open water swimming is a great and accessible sport for youngsters. For all those organisers that already encourage and support youth participation at your events, keep up the good work. For those that don't yet, please look at how you could do so in 2013.

Happy Swimming Simon Griffiths


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