1. Please introduce yourself to the readers. Include how you got started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.
I did my first open water swim in 1968 and have traveled on five continents to watch, cover, organize and participate in hundreds of races and events. My aquatic background is here: http://ows.openwaterswimming.
2. How do you go about learning new information? Do you read websites, magazines, research journals, talk to colleagues, etc.?
I write about what interests me. I collect information from race directors and swimmers every day and create data bases that I analyze. I send out questionnaires and ask for swimmer’s opinions on a wide range of topics from feeding and sleeping to cheating and training. I am constantly asking questions and trying to find the answer. I want to know how to train better and what places are great to swim (in/across). Because there is only one open water swimming magazine, there are few periodicals to learn from. So I talk with athletes, coaches, escort pilots, mariners and swimming physicians around the world every single day. I write at least 2 magazine articles per month and at least 6 blog postings per day, every day without fail. Because I write so much I have to do a lot of research and confirmation with athletes and race directors.
3. What aspect of coaching do you feel swim coaches, specifically Open Water Coaches don’t do particularly well?
Coaches can help prepare their athletes better. They can help them understand what can be expected or unexpected in an open water swim. They can prepare them better for extreme water temperatures, marine life, rough water conditions. They can talk race strategy, drafting and positioning in a race. They can help them understand how best to warm-up and warm-down and how to apply lanolin and when to use ear plugs. There is so much to talk about and teach, but I am not sure the average swim coach in America understand the comprehensive complexity of open water racing and training.
4. Who are your biggest 3 influences in the sport of swimming?
1. Maarten van der Weijden overcame leukemia to win the gold medal in the 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. That is inspirational.
2. Natalie du Toit, an amputee who qualified for the Olympic (able-bodied) final in marathon swimming and who has overcome incredible adversity is also mind-boggling inspirational.
3. Penny Dean, former English Channel and current Catalina Channel record holder, who taught me a whole bunch many years ago.
5. This question is continually asked, but which ways do you feel open water swimming can become more “mainstream” in the media and swimming?
This is a great question. We can make more heroes and heroines among our open water swimmers and share the training information with the pool swimming world. Open water swimmers each have such great stories about their accomplishments and achievements, but we need more story tellers. It will take many more years – or perhaps never – for open water swimming to become mainstream in the traditional sense (i.e., network television coverage and daily sports page interest). However, the 21st century presents opportunities for information to be shared socially online via alternative media. This is where open water swimming will become mainstream because people can tell their own stories. They do not have to depend on TV producers, newspaper editors or reporters who have no personal interest or knowledge about open water swimming. Open water swimmers can now make their own news and share their stories and experiences with the rest of society. This is a major social shift and we have only just begun seeing these advantages and potential. Therefore, open water swimming is growing in record numbers, both in terms of athletes and events, but it is doing so without the knowledge of traditional media. The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim will certainly give open water swimming more exposure and media attention in America, but it is really the swimmers themselves who will blog, tweet, post, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, email, text and link stories and information about open water swimming with their friends, family, fans and teammates. Open water swimming is growing exponentially at the grass roots level. This is how open water swimming will become mainstream. It is a contemporary twist from the 20th century model.
6. What’s the hardest Open Water course in the U.S.? World?
It depends what you are looking for: cold water, rough conditions, distance, marine life, altitude or sheer inherent danger. I think the hardest marathon swim course in the U.S. is a solo swim between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Farallon Islands. This is plenty cold, has extremely rough conditions on most days, is 30 miles in length, is a stomping grounds for Great White Sharks and is about as high as you can get on the inherent risk index. On the warm water side of the equation, the Molokai Channel is tough. But you can also choose a course in Lake Michigan or between Cuba and Florida, and they can exceed the Farallon Islands on a number of fronts. Around the world, swimming in Lake Titicaca, the Bering Strait, the North Channel (between Scotland and Ireland) are all incredibly difficult. But every month people are dreaming up ever longer, ever more dangerous extreme swims. People are now regularly swimming in water under 5°C (41°C) without wetsuits or neoprene caps.
7. Open Water training requires a lot of pool time, how should injury prevention and resistance training be implemented to improve performance?
Open water swimming requires a lot of swimming, whether it is in the pool and in the open water. Injury prevention can be enhanced by learning the proper stroke mechanics and not extending yourself when you feel a twinge coming on. Proper recovery time is always an issue for open water swimming. Resistance training is very important to improve your performance. I have been incorporating KAATSU AQUA in my own training regimen and seeing great results. KAATSU AQUA is a means to safely and properly restrict vascular flow while swimming. It achieves the same results as resistance training but with no impact and specifically targeting the muscles that you want in the water.
8. What projects are you working on now or we should anticipate in the future?
Openwaterpedia started a few months ago and there are already over 7,000 entries. We are starting a Race Directors online education program so race directors can understand the top 50 Best Practices of open water swims worldwide. Open Water Source is also rolling out an insurance program for the open water swimming world in early 2012.