Last weekend (Sept 21-23) was the 2012 Global Open Water Conference and the Long Beach Open Water Swim. Both were hosted by Long Beach locals, reporter of the Daily News of Open Water Swimming and Content Manager for Open Water Source Lexie Kelly, and open water swimming extraordinaire Steve Munatones. Open water swimming heroes from 19 countries and coach, administrators, triathletes and endurance athletes of all ages and backgrounds gathered in Long Beach for this open water swimming extravaganza. The weekend featured 2 awards ceremonies, dozens of inspirational and education presentations by open water swimming luminaries, and an open water swim that replicated the 2012 Long Olympic Games 10k course.
The conference began Friday night with a welcome reception, marine art exhibition ,and book signing on the RMS Queen Mary. Guest, coaches, administrators, officials and open water swimming stars from all over the world gathered once again Saturday morning on the Queen Mary for a day full of open water speakers , presentations, safety panels, and award ceremonies. Diana Nyad kicked off the conference with a very motivating speech, reminiscing about her amazing life experiences, and speaking about her third attempt to swim the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. Next was a truly inspirational speech by Craig Dietz. A swimmer born with no arms, or legs talked about his passion for swimming and his journey training for open water swimming. Craig also swam the next day in the Long Beach Open Water Swim 10k. The swim was the longest swim he ever attempted. Although Craig fell short of his 10k goal, he still swam an amazing 5.1k! Greta Anderson also gave a very entertaining speech about her open water swimming journeys during the 1940’s. It was amazing to see how much the sport of swimming has and hasn’t changed!
The conference continued with Skype session with Australian Trent Grimsey, the newest recorded holder for the fastest English Channel crossing. Following Trent was a discussion panel that consisted of 3 open water officials from 2012 London Olympics. Ricardo Ratto (Brazil), Shelley Taylor-Smith (AUS) and Dr. Khwaza Aziz (Bangladesh) discussed challenges and the success of the Olympic 10k Open Water Swim and talked briefly about the 2016 Olympic Games.
Next, was an Open Water Safety Panel led by President of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, Forrest Nelson. The panel discussed the numerous safety issues that arise in marathon swimming and answered a variety of different questions from hyperthermia to the importance of proper hydration and feeding. Succeeding the panel was an awards ceremony that recognized Pilar Geijo (ARG) for World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, Jamie Patrick (USA) for World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, and Lt. Colonel Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia) for the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of discussions on coaching open water, jellyfish, extreme swims, and mass participation swims. It was so encouraging to see the amount of people who support and share the same enthusiasm for open water swimming. This sport is exploding! With the increasing amount of interest in the sport one of the biggest emphases at the conference was safety! Participating in an open water event can be truly an exceptional experience, but it is so important to remember that this sport is subject to nature’s elements.
Sunday was the Swim Across America Long Beach Open Water Swim. Swimmers could participation in either a 100 meter swim, 800 meter swim, 1.5k swim, 5k swim or 10k swim to benefit the Memorial Medical Center Foundation that supports the Todd Cancer Institute in Long Beach, California. The race was held at the Marine Stadium in Long Beach, the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games rowing venue, and the course was set up as an exact replica of the 2012 Olympic 10k course which was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was a beautiful warm day in Long Beach and water temperature was around 71 degrees. Swimmers swam clockwise around 11 bouys. The 1.5 swimmers swam 1 loop, the 5k swimmers swam 3 loops, and the 10k swimmers swam 6 loops. The course allowed for packs of swimmers to stay tight and the feeding station was great practice for those swimmers looking into doing longer swims. Around 300 swimmers went off in two waves. USMS swimmers went off in the first wave at 10:00am and the Non-USMS swimmers (youngsters) followed in the second wave 6 minutes later. The 1.5k, 5k and 10k swimmers all started at the same time which made great company for swimmers in the 10k! LBSM swimmers Anita Correa (1:25.30), David Buczkowski (1:29.00), Merritt Morris (1:11.00), Nicole Norris (1:25.40), Jill Unze (2:13.10) and Val Hagopien (1:23.35) all took on the 5k challenge and finished strong! Also, three of LBSM coaches participated in the swim. Coach Danny McClary competing in his first open water swim of the summer, swam a short and quick 1.5k in 28.67 minutes. In addition, Coach Carri Cook and Lyle Nalli challenged themselves in the 10k. Carri and Lyle were the first male and female Master swimmers. They swam most of the race together, helping each other with drafting, encouragement, and much needed nutrition throughout the 2 and half hour swim! Results can be found here!