Curator of Fitness & Fun on the Seacoast

Everybody Out of the Water!: Endurance Swimming Is Not Remarkable, Just a “HUGE” Risk

photo of Diana Nyad in water

Diana Nyad in the water off Cuba – [photo courtesy of abcnews.com]

I know it’s late summer and the water temps are warm, and who doesn’t want to go for a dip in the ocean? But, let’s get real. There’s going for a nice swim or even a hard pool workout, but what is up this summer with all these crazy endurance swimmers? Or should I just call them selfish, self-absorbed swimmers?

Is the risk to life (and the well-being of a full support crew) and ALL the exorbitant expenses incurred really worth a very LONG swim just to be able to say you did something no one else has done before? [I swim to workout and have done 1/2 mile open water swims, and that’s plenty!] Are these endurance swimmers that bored and in need of (media) attention? Couldn’t we spend this money and time more wisely – maybe give some inner-city kids FREE swimming lessons? Hey, I like to swim in the ocean and do pool workouts myself, but I just don’t get all this (extreme) endurance swimming.

photo of Olympic swim marathon at London 2012

photo of the 2012 London Olympics (open water) Swim Marathon 10K at Hyde Park

Now, the longest swimming event for elite athletes (who are representing their countries) is the Olympic Swim Marathon and that’s a 10K distance (6.2 miles) and I think plenty far enough. Can’t we stop right there at a 10K for the sake of country and competition?

Apparently not. There are endurance (or open water) swimmers who just need to be “super” elite athletes I guess and show those Olympian swim marathoners a thing or two!

Let’s re-cap some of the endurance swimming summer madness…. It’s been almost a week since endurance swimmer, Diana Nyad, now 62,  had to quit during her FOURTH attempt to swim across the Straits of Florida after swimming for 63 hours. The total distance to cross from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida, is 103 miles. According to a CNN report, Nyad decided to end her curious quest:

“…after severe jellyfish stings and a lightning storm put her off course… She had been in the water for 60+ hours and was about halfway through her swim from Cuba to Florida.”

Yes, Nyad was in the water for 60+ hours. At the Open Water Swim Marathon at the 2012 London Olympics, the world’s elite endurance swimmers are competing in the water for just under 2 hours! Is Diana Nyad out to prove she’s a BETTER endurance swimmer than the rest of the world? Really? Or is it the age thing, and I’ll show you what a 62-year-old (former elite swimmer) can really do? I honestly think these endurance swimmers (and their support crews) have nothing better to do in the summer and crave the limelight. I just don’t get the motivation. Why pray tell? What are they out to prove to the world? From the same CNN article, here’s Mark Sollinger, Nyad’s Operations Chief(?):

“With all the threats continuing, Diana decided that it was not a risk that we wanted to take.” …she is holding up “as well as someone who just spent 63 hours” performing a “monumental and extremely dangerous” feat. Sollinger (also went on to) describe her achievement as “huge,” despite having to stop before she reached Florida. 

photo of Diana Nyad pulled from marathon swim to FLA

Nyad being pulled from the water by her support crew. Does this look like fun or a sports “achievement”? – (photo courtesy of abcnews.com)

A HUGE achievement? What achievement? She did not complete her goal. And this was called a historic swim? How so? How did this make history exactly? And, how do we now measure sports achievements? Attempting “monumental and extremely dangerous” feats makes our modern-day list of sports achievements?

Sorry Diana and crew, but I think not. Now I am not knocking that Nyad feels a “huge sense of accomplishment” for swimming half-way to Florida on her 4th attempt. That’s weird and bizarre to me, yet incredible all the same. But she really says it all with her own comment that “Nobody in the world would even attempt this, but we did.” Exactly. So why attempt it? Because the water is there? Enough already, Diana. It’s time to get everybody out of the water.

Not to be outdone, we recently had a group of five (40-something) endurance, or open-water swimmers in Massachusetts, who decided it would be a good idea to swim from Plymouth, MA to Provincetown, a mere 20 mile ocean trek – more than 3x as far as the Olympic Swim Marathon! Hey, why not? The ocean is right there.

Sure, let’s attempt another “monumental and extremely dangerous” swimming feat for no real reason. According to Sarah Mattero’s August 21st article in The Boston Globe entitled “Swimmers conquer 20 miles from Plymouth to Provincetown”, the (stated) reason for this endurance swim was simple: “We just wanted to prove that it could be done.” Ooooo-kay? Do these people really have nothing better to do? Hey, go for a good swim workout on the Cape and get on with your lives already. Don’t we have bigger (real life) challenges to tackle in New England than to just make them up? I would hope so.

Well these five open water swimmers did not have to stop on their ocean quest. They made it all the way to Provincetown in about 11 hours. (There were no jellyfish or tropical storms to hinder them out in Cape Cod Bay). Apparently the story behind the story was – they were testing out whether to start a new swim marathon event on the same 20-mile route. Seriously, is there really a big fitness community demand for a 20-mile swim marathon on Cape Cod?

One of the successful swimmers noted post-swim on the dock in Provincetown that there was no time for celebration of their remarkable feat, “just sleep and food.” Sounds like fun to me. Really, to be frank – these endurance swimming challenges are far from remarkable, and are extremely dangerous and risky. And, as Jack Nicholson said famously in a Few Good Men these (monumental?) endurance swims PUT LIVES IN DANGER.  I have had enough of these endurance swimmers and their amazing athletic “achievements” this summer, and I am not alone. I say NO MAS. Everybody out of the water!

photo of swimmer on dock after marathon swim to Provincetown

Greg O’Connor “rested” in Provincetown on Tuesday after nearly 10½ hours in the water (and 20 miles). Remarkable feat, really? Looks like fun to me.[photo courtesy of Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe]

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Categorised in: Events & Races, Outdoor/Extreme Sports, Swimming for Fitness, Uncategorized

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