We had a meeting with the Salt Lake Open Water (SLOW) board last night to make a tough decision about the future of the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim and Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim.
Basically it boiled down to whether to continue on with United States Master Swimming (USMS) sanctioning or to look for another alternative. After a lot of discussion, weighing the pros and cons, we decided not to continue with USMS.
The cost to sanction an event through USMS skyrocketed last year. To their credit, they started offering "rebates" that offset some of that increased cost. Utah Masters has also been very supportive of these events and helped us get through a tough year in 2013 when these changes were happening. This year, the cost for Great Salt Lake was about even between USMS (with a rebate) and another insurance provider.
More important than the cost is that we are now able to open up participation to swimmers under 18. With USMS, that was not an option. We have been hearing that age group swimmers in Utah are interested in open water and are looking for opportunities. One of the best parts of the Bear Lake Monster Swim last year was seeing a team of four high school boys win the relay event. They were so excited and asked for an extra medal to put in their school's trophy case. That's just awesome!
Also, with the USMS sanction gone, non-USMS swimmers will no longer have to pay an additional $15 for a one-event membership. I think this may be appealing to recreational swimmers and triathletes who are not involved with Masters swimming.
We chose not to sanction the Bear Lake Monster Swim through USMS last year and the event was a success. We are optimistic that by making this change for the Great Salt Lake and Deer Creek swims, we can increase participation and continue to grow the sport of open water swimming in Utah.