Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To Wetsuit Or Not To Wetsuit

We heard of some Australian open water swims that have banned wetsuits, technical swimsuits and anything that provides buoyancy or warmth with the goal of leveling the playing field. But, with so many enthusiasts and venues, the sport still provides ample opportunities for everyone, ranging from seriously-minded hardy traditionalists who brave sub-15°C (60°F) waters to wetsuit-optional swims from Alaska to ... Australia.

Photo on left shows Daniel Kowalski celebrating his 2007 1.2K Lorne Pier to Pub win in Australia (happening this weekend), a swim so popular that a random drawing is used to select who is luckiest to participate.

Photo above is from the 2K, 5K and 10K Epic Swim on New Zealand's Lake Taupo.

Copyright © 2009 by Steven Munatones


Anonymous said...

Swimming in a wet suit or any suit that provides buoyancy is cheating.
It's also like taking a bath with your clothes on. It's just not the same. Leave it to the Aussie's to start to retain the purity of open water swimming.

Suzie Dods

Steven Munatones said...

Cheating is defined as dishonestly violating the rules or to obtain something due to dishonesty, deception or deceit.

Most swims have wetsuit and non-wetsuit divisions where wetsuit competitors do not compete against non-wetsuit swimmers.

Our sport has partly exploded because swimmers can enjoy the open water instead of having to painfully endure or suffer in low water temperatures.

There is no question that everyone greatly respects swimmers who can withstand cold temperatures - that is why English Channel swimmers and those who brave the cold San Francisco Bay are held in such great esteem.

However, many swimmers do not have the motivation, access or time to acclimate themselves to the cold water. For those individuals, a wetsuit is a welcomed tool that allows them enjoy our sport. Most of these swimmers are much more interested in warmth and comfort than buoyancy and speed.

For several decades, the British Long Distance Swimming Association has held competitions in Lake Windermere. The number of competitors has been in the dozens. However, swims in the same lake organized by a private company now reach 7,200 entrants in a matter of weeks - and they have the money to televise the events and draw the world's best swimmers to Lake Windermere. Nearly all of those 7,200 swimmers - including the Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists - use wetsuits.

We view those 7,200 new swimmers as welcomed additions to our wonderful sport - not as cheaters.

But, naturally, we respect your position on cheating which this is the official position by every national swimming federation in the world.

Our view is that while the national swimming federations and certain organizations (e.g., channel governing bodies and certain Australian races) do not allow wetsuits, our sport's new-found growth and popularity is significantly powered by individuals who use wetsuits.

Eventually, some of those wetsuit-clad swimmers take the cold-water challenge and join the highly respected world of non-wetsuit-clad traditionalists.

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