Extreme Swimming Events in the New Year (Are you up for the challenge?)

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Dec 29, 2011

Extreme Swimming Events in the New Year (Are you up for the challenge?)

If you are after some challenging yet exciting New Year resolutions, why not set your goals a bit higher this year and attempt to properly train for and then undergo an extreme swimming event. I stress one more time the "train" part of the resolution as taking part in extreme swimming events without proper training is just plain reckless and could lead to serious injuries as we saw with David Walliams' Thames swim charity event. However, don't let this put you off. If you train a correct and smart way, your venture into the world of extremes should be an exciting one. Jenna, a journalism student at Saint Louis University is here to share her extreme swimming events insights.
Polar Bear Swimming by farlane

Enter Jenna
As swimmers, we like to challenge ourselves to go a little bit further or a little bit faster every time we hop into the water. While at times, we do enjoy a leisurely swim or snorkel, there are also times when we feel as though pushing ourselves to our outermost abilities is a must. For those swimmers who are looking for a way to spice up their swimming, here are a few challenges that just may be right up their alley:

Note: While entertaining, we don't necessarily recommend that all swimmers, even those with advanced skills attempt any of the following without proper training and preparation:

Swimming the English Channel (La Manche)

If you are looking for a challenge, then by all means try to swim the English Channel. The swim is a 21 mile swim in cold water with strong currents which are bound to move you over and double your distance. The best days for swimming the Channel are in the summer, but even then the water is only 60 degrees, and those that keep records of the swim only certify swimmers that do not wear wetsuits. On top of combating strong currents and chilly waters, swimmers will also have to keep an eye out for boats and jellyfish – neither of which are too fun to encounter.
English Channel Swimming Association

However, there are people certified to help you out if you so choose to cross the Channel. Certified pilots will help you stay on course and help you avoid jelly fish and boats so that you can experience the safest and most efficient swim. They will also give you food and water, and help you if you should run into an emergency situation. Either way, you will be in for one heck of a swim. Swimming the Channel is by no means an easy feat. In fact, more people have climbed Everest than swam the La Manche.

Polar Bear Plunge

If you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter, or is just near a body of water that stays pretty chilly all year long, then you have probably heard of the Polar Bear Plunge. These events are usually held on or around New Year's day and require swimmers to strip down to their swimsuits in chilly temps to jump into frigid waters. While this may not be a great swimming challenge, it is definitely a water challenge in and of itself that will be sure to shock your system. The largest plunge in the U.S., called Plungapalooza, is held in Maryland at the Sandy Point State Park every year.

While many Polar Bear Plunge veterans claim that the event cleanses them and boosts their mood, many doctors forewarn plungers of the dangers of jumping in to ice cold water because of the shock it can have on the body. (Note from Swimator Blog: It is much better to take it nice and slow when getting in and make sure to do some test runs before the actual event, so your body gets slowly used to the extreme temperatures).

Swimming the Cook Strait

Although not as long as the English Channel, swimming Cook Strait in New Zealand is just as daunting. This 19 mile swim is between the North and South island of New Zealand in waters that are teeming with marine life, and is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world. In addition to giant squid, Cook Strait is home to numerous species of dolphins, fur seals, and whales, including Orcas. However, it isn't the marine life that you have to worry about.
Cook Strait extreme swimming conditions

The Strait often has strong winds, large swells, and rough waters, and it is also right in the path of the roaring forties. The Strait also has strong currents which are often undetectable due to lack of tidal height change. Only 65 people have successful swam the Cook Strait, so you can imagine it is not for the faint-hearted.

So if you are in shape, undergone the proper training and looking for a challenge, consider one of the aforementioned. A few other honorable mentions include Catalina Channel and the swim around Manhattan Island. You could even attempt the Triple Crown of Open Water if you feel up to it.

From Swimator Blog: There are literally thousands of opportunities out there to get your extreme swimming bug out of your system. The above mentioned events are just a few of the most challenging examples. However, I will stress it one more time. If you are thinking about taking part in any of the plentiful extreme swimming events around the world, please do make sure you have a proper training plan starting many months prior to the event. As with marathons in running, swimming in extreme conditions in open water is becoming more accessible and more interesting for swimmers from all over the world, however, it could cause serious injuries if not taken seriously. So, don't be foolish, get your swimming technique sorted, then build up some endurance and rough/cold water conditions tolerance before becoming an extreme swimming junkie :). All the best to the New Year, may all swimming dreams and attempts come true.

This is a guest post by Jenna, a journalism student at Saint Louis University. Upon graduation, she hopes to travel the world while producing compelling content for the masses. When she isn't writing, you can find Jenna with her nose in a book, or her headphones in to block out the rest of the world.

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Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

David Walliams actually trained since February, but had health problems that were ignored ...

libor said...

@anonymous: thanks for the insight. I was more thinking in terms of technique related training though and not really endurance. From February until the actual Thames swim, David could have improved his freestyle technique quite a bit with the proper training regime and then would more than likely not sustain the injury. Of course, you never know, hence extreme swimming, but the "right" training can go long ways.