Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Swimmers vs. Pirates in the Pacific
Like the upcoming Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Beijing, the Pacific Open Water Challenge in Long Beach, California offered a strategic race with an exciting fight to the finish.
In a special Long Beach Sea Festival twist, hordes of pirates officially started the races with real muskets. To the delight of the crowd, the colorful pirates chased the swimmers into the water with shouts and scowls, brandishing their pistols and swords.
But, once in the water, it was game time. While many participants were entered in their first ocean swim and simply wanted to finish, others were looking towards the future.
Beginning in 2009, the Pacific Open Water Challenge will be one of the 14 cities around the world to hold a FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup race. Next year's Long Beach stop on the FINA World Cup series will be on July 12th.
Two swimmers who are looking forward to participate in the World Cup entered the 5K race and went stroke-for-stroke for 51 minutes: Andrew Deters, a junior at Notre Dame who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1500 freestyle, battled Alex Kostich, a triple Pan American Games gold medalist and an All-American at Stanford.
From the start, Kostich set the pace in the choppy waters with Deters going right with him. By the end of the first of three loops, Kostich and Deters had clearly separated themselves from the 116-person field. “I knew he has more speed than me, so I was just trying to stay with him,” explained Kostich.
During the second loop, Deters never left Kostich's side and the two went at it mano-a-mano open-water style. Kostich would surge, then Deters would respond. Deters would throw in a move, then it was Kostich’s time to hang on. Punch, counter-punch. Back and forth it went throughout the race. “It was rough out there with the wind,” commented Kostich. “He’s good. I knew it would come down to the end.”
By the third and final loop, Deters and Kostich were navigating around the slower, less experienced swimmers people as hundreds of pirates and thousands of sightseers cheered from the pier, the shore and a pirate ship cruising nearby.
During the last mile, Kostich threw all kinds of open water racing tactics at Deters. He veered him to the left and then moved back on course. He’d fall back a bit and then drag off Deters' hip. He’d let Deters take the brunt of the waves. But, Deters hung on…and withstood every trick Kostich had in his new blueseventy suit.
With the last turn buoy in sight, Kostich let it all hang out and threw down a ferocious final sprint. But Deters lived up to his school’s Fighting Irish monicker. There was no way he about going to go down without a fight.
“I felt him at every stroke,” recalled Kostich. “It was tough. His hand kept brushing up against me." With the wind kicking up some mean surface chop, it was inevitable that the combatants would bump into each other.
They rounded the last turn buoy together, but took two separate lines to the beach finish. “I knew I had to take a chance and went a bit to the right,” said Kostich.
As Kostich headed right towards shore, Deters went at a slightly different angle. It was clear that they were sprinting at the same speed, but it was unclear who had the better line taking the winds, chop and currents into consideration.
With the pirates and crowd waiting in anticipation, Deters stood up first when he reached the sand. Kostich was only a few steps behind, but he gained some ground as he dolphined through the shallow waters. But, it was Deters’ day as he put on a spurt, running up the beach like a light-footed Notre Dame half back being chased by lumbering Stanford lineman.
Deters crossed in 51:13 with Kostich behind in 51:17.
It was an exciting ending for a day of competition and fun. And a precursor to an exciting FINA World Cup race in July 2009.
For final results and continued Mobile Open Water Alerts, go to
Pacific Open Water Challenge.
Photos by Brightroom.
Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association