We had the great pleasure of meeting Shane Gould and her husband Milt Nelms at the 2008 Fiji Swims. It was great to hear the couple talk about swimming through the years - and learn of their interest in open water swimming and their new open water event in Tasmania (called the Devil of a Swim).
We have always enjoyed our discussions with Milt, one of the world’s leading experts and innovators in swimming technique. Milt has worked with many of the world’s best swimmers and served as a consultant to organizations and governments around the world on teaching swimming to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
For someone who has been around pool decks his adult life, Milt writes poetically about open water swimming.
"The concept of ocean swimming is very appealing to me. We spend all day in some sort of a figurative (or real) box moving back and forth according to someone else's rules or instructions. Not so in the ocean. You go out, you come back. That is enough, and to me, it is a lot."
Milt was eloquent when describing the differences between open water and pool swimming:
"Pool swimming is very quantitatively driven. If you go to a meet, such as sectionals or any large age group meet, they are really not about racing as much as they are about times. At sectionals where there are 180 girls entered in the 100 free, how many are racing mana-a-mano? Not more than a handful. There are many entire heats of 8 virtually identical times."
"In pool competitions, a non-gratifying physical experience with a fast time is seen as a success, or a pleasurable physical experience can be deflated by a bad time. In a pool competition, a close race that is won and yields a slow time often is a disappointment. Similarly, a race that is lost but yields a fast time is celebrated."
"Take the seconds and the centimeters out of either of those situations and you would have a different reality."
"Oceans swims are experiential and episodic. There is no distraction of miniscule measurement, only generalities of thirds or halves that are inexact because of other variables such as wind, tides, or currents. It is the quality of the experience at different levels, or pure strategic racing that defines the event."
We find Milt's description of open water swimming right to the point - experiential and episodic.
Those words - whether one is swimming in a 1K race or doing a marathon solo swim - certainly ring true no matter what ocean, lake, river or bay you find yourself swimming in.
Photos of the Nike Swim Miami by George Kamper.
Copyright © 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association