2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

It was an incredible experience to attend the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference this past weekend.  There were so many inspiring swimmers and speakers, and I got to meet some of my open water heroes.  A huge thank you to Utah Masters for sending me!

Here are some of my notes:

Gordon, Goody and I flew into Long Beach and took a cab straight to the “meet and greet” at the Queen Mary.  Less than a minute after walking into the conference hall I was able to meet Jamie Patrick, Evan Morrison, and Steven Munatones.

After chatting for a bit, we watched a film, “50 year old Freshman”, about Suzanne Heim-Bowden.  It was an excellent film about Suzanne’s many swimming accomplishments and also about being recruited for a college team at the age of 50.  It was awesome to see her kicking college kids’ butts in the pool!  Shortly after the film, I was able to meet Suzanne and talk to her about the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim (which she had already heard about from Suzie Dodds).  We also sat at the same table as Martin Strel (a hero of mine) and his son Borut.

We caught a cab to the Queen Mary early Saturday morning and were some of the first people in line.  I had brought a big stack of postcard for the GSL swim and I set them out at the front table (they were nearly gone by the end of the day).  As we were waiting to go in, we saw Kara Robertson and Lynn Kubasek.

We went right into a full day of speakers and awards.  Following are my notes from some of the speakers:

Diana Nyad

What an incredibly engaging and passionate speaker!  She had the audience totally captivated as she spoke about how she got started in swimming.  She spoke about paying attention to the moment in front of us.  A big part of her speech revolved around a story of her going to the Olympic trials and being told by another swimmer to forget about everything else and swim the race in a way that she could say she couldn’t have swum it a fingernail better at the end of the race.  She then spoke about how we should live like an athlete in our non-athlete lives and do everything we can “not a fingernail better”.

Craig Dietz

For those who may not know who Craig Dietz is, he is a swimmer who was born without arms and legs.  Craig is a very funny and inspirational speaker.  He focused on “defining your own potential” and taking control of our circumstances and not letting our circumstances control us.  He also told us to “stop thinking about doing something, and do it.”  We were lucky to be sitting at the same table as Craig and his wife for most of the day and got to talk to them for a little bit.

Greta Andersen

Wow!  What an honor to hear from such an accomplished swimmer!  Greta had some footage of some of her historic swims and gave some very entertaining commentary as the clips played.  She said that a lot of things have changed in the sport since she was swimming (goggles, GPS, food, etc) but that “the fish are the same, the ocean is the same.”  She brought with her an AWESOME trophy that she earned by swimming the English channel.  We were lucky enough to have her sign photos for us and get our pictures taken with her.

Trent Grimsey
They had a Skype call set up with Trent Grimsey, who recently broke the record for the fastest English channel crossing.  The connection was a little spotty, but it was cool to hear about his preparation for the swim, putting on extra weight, his feedings, etc.  I have been following Trent’s blog for a while.  He is a crazy fast swimmer and seems like an all around good guy.

2012 London Olympics Panel
There was a panel discussion with some people who were involved in the 2012 Olympic 10K marathon swim.  It was interesting to hear some behind the scenes stories and details about how the race was run.

Safety Panel
Forrest Nelson moderated a panel discussion about safety.  The discussion was geared more towards safety for solo marathon swims.  Most of the discussion was spent talking about hypothermia (dangers, how to recognize, how to treat, when to pull a swimmer, etc).

Wayne Riddin
Wayne is the race director for the largest open water race in the world: the Midmar Mile.  He spoke about some of the logistics of running such a large race and also gave some good ideas for how to increase participation and get sponsors involved.

Stephen Coulter
Stephen is a member of the Bold and Beautiful club in Australia.  The Bold and Beautiful is probably the largest open water club in the world, with regular daily attendance of over 100 swimmers.  He gave some excellent ideas on how to grow a swim club (which we will be using with the new open water Masters club we are starting here).  His main ideas were for the club to be 1) Inclusive (make sure EVERYONE is welcome to swim) 2) Recognition (their club actually awards patches for different accomplishments) 3) Tracking (attendance, challenges, etc) and 4) Keep a blog.

Stephen is also one of the founders of iSwimToo.com which is a new social media tool to help swimmers from around the world link up and find places to swim.  As of tonight, I have not been on the site yet, but plan on signing up and using it quite a bit.

Martin Strel

I was really looking forward to hearing from Martin Strel.  He is a hero of mine because of his incredible accomplishments swimming down rivers around the world.  He spoke about some of his past accomplishments, how much it costs to do one of his “projects” and some of the “projects” he has been thinking about taking up.

Ram Barkai
Goody, Gordon and I actually met Ram on Friday night and talked to him quite a bit about ice swimming.  We got some very helpful advice and I was really happy to have met him.

In his presentation he talked about the rules of the “ice swim” as set forth by the International Ice Swimming Association.  He talked about how intense of an experience it is and how a large part of ice swimming is mental.  His goal is to eventually have ice swimming included in the winter Olympics!

We also were able to see the winners of the WOWSA awards accept their awards.  I was really impressed with Jamie Patrick.  He does so much to promote open water swimming and is inclusive of EVERYONE.

We also saw the inductees to the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame accept their certificates and heard their acceptance speeches.

There was so much more going on that I am leaving out here, but these were the highlights for me.  Steven Munatones did an incredible job putting the conference together and I hope that I will be able to attend future conferences.

One thing that would have made the conference better would have been to have more vendors there to show off (and sell) their products.  There was a FINIS booth and a few others, but I really think it would add a lot to the conference to have more booths to visit during the breaks.

Thank you again to Utah Masters for sending me to the conference and for being so supportive of open water swimming in Utah.  I have a lot of ideas floating around about things we can do here to grow the sport and improve our events.

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