Open Water News

Proof of concept! We can run open water swimming squads for multi class athletes

We didn’t know if this was even possible.

Can we run an open water swim group – in the sea – for multi class and Special Olympics swimmers?

To tell the truth, I was reluctant to find out – but when Hans from Special Olympics persisted and we ventured into this, we discovered a whole new experience to enjoy. And that was swimming with people who don’t get to explore the deep blue sea, the salty water, the sun and the movement.

Yes the movement all around –  waves, chop, windy splashes, currents. I didn’t quite appreciate how that might be the big first impression – and big first hurdle to overcome – for pool swimmers with special needs.

“Why is it moving?”

I’ve got a good answer for that question now. But there were other hurdles. The wetsuits were difficult to put on. There was no actual end to the pool.

Plus there was the feeling of unsteady sand under feet. We expected that might create  uncertainty for our autistic participants but the swim buddies were all great supporters and just essential confidence builders. We got to the water!

Now, after two clinics, we seem to have created a bit of a monster. Most of the participants were so happy with the day out at the beach they have been asking when they can do it again 

No OW swimming for multi class athletes

Multi class and Special Olympics athletes have, up until now, largely missed out on enjoying open water swimming. Supporting swimmers with special needs is a labour-intensive operation requiring competent swimmers to be buddies, other safety volunteers and the coaches to all work together with the athlete, their carers, coach and club.  Insurance, of course, is a consideration and a risk assessment approach is required.

There has been no multi class categories in open water events in Victoria until 2016. And no way for pool squads to train in the open water.

Now some open water events, like the WOW Challenge / VOWC and a few other public participation open water swims in Melbourne recognise and support multi class swimmers. We think eventually every event will need to buy more medals for multi class athletes and think seriously about how they need to support access for all swimmers.

Bringing it all together

Hans and I first talked this idea through with Liz Gosper from Inclusive Sports Training six months before anyone got near the water. We got great support from Special Olympics (thanks Simon!) and the volunteer lifesavers at WSLSC. Nothing would have been possible without the swim buddies from The Mussels and Swimming Victoria backed us up as well. We could not have put this on without all of these organisations chipping in.

The stars aligned for us at Williamstown to bring this project together. Our first two open water clinics were a huge success.

What actually happened

At our November and December 2017 clinics, swimmers from Special Olympics Victoria looked tentatively at the sea from the safety of the Lifesaving Club’s front lawn. Looking at Mum, Dad and the coaches for assurance, these swimmers were introduced to their ‘swim buddies’ from WSLSC’s Ocean Swimming Club “The Mussels.” 

The buddies helped swimmers put on some donated wetsuits (thanks Inclusive Sports) and we met on the beach for dryland exercises. We stood in a circle and joked around a bit. 

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A couple of swimmers found the feeling of the shifting sand under their feet stressful. We hadn’t yet got to the water. I may have been concerned at that point how this was going to turn out.

But the buddies did a great job, sticking close to the swimmers and with our three WSLSC volunteers on rescue boards we leapt into the sea. Well some didn’t quite leap. More of a slow amble. 

We practised high elbows and body position in the open water and sighting before breathing. We played touch the toes and had fun drafting and trying to swim straight. By the end of the hour we had swum more than 1.5km in deep water and no one had returned to shore.

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For me the enjoyment of the participants and the look of new confidence on faces proved the concept. The icing on cake has been the medals and podium finishes at open water events by participants from our clinics. These are strong pool swimmers who have rarely before ventured into the open water.

kurt ben etc wow

The volunteers who helped all had a great time as well, as did Hans and I, so yeah, we’ll be doing it again!

Supported Open water swimming squad is back! 

Saturday 11 February 2018 12 Noon – 1pm

Saturday 17 February 2018 12 Noon – 1pm (with Inclusive Sports Training) 

Saturday 24 March 2018 12 Noon – 1pm

Contact Jason for more info.

3LOGOS

 

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OW swimmers & triathletes need to train in the pool – with a squad & coach

If you are planning on a great summer of swimming in open water events, triathlons or just enjoy getting out in the sea, you need to be at the pool each week.

But many swimmers waste their time, money and effort going for a swim by themselves. Nothing replaces the workout, the skills, the technique and the rapid improvement you get from swimming at the pool with a squad and coach.

And because it’s a great social experience, you’ll come back again and again, and reap the long term benefits of an active lifestyle. You’ll be encouraged to work and push your boundaries because everyone is sharing the same goal – of improving our swimming and fitness.

Making a commitment to train with a group is the step up that many triathletes and swimmers need to enjoy their swimming and perform when it counts.

Pool Squad for OW Swimmers and Triathletes is Tuesday, 7.30pm. And the venue is the beautiful Victoria University Aquatic Centre, Building L, Footscray Park campus (drive in from Farnsworth Ave).

We swim 2.5 – 3km of solid aerobic and anaerobic swim sets combined with our tried and tested OW skills sets. We have lane space for swimmers of various speeds.

Just $10 and you get free entry to pool and sauna!

Open water swim groups are booming at Williamstown

Open water swimming is a rapidly growing sport and Williamstown Beach is the home of Victoria’s biggest open water swimming program.

Thousands of swimmers enjoy our beautiful beach, abundant sea life and and marine sanctuary each year. Williamstown Swimming and Lifesaving Club host the Victorian Open Water Championships each December and the WOW Challenge public participation swim festival.

Every Saturday morning and Wednesday evening after work (during daylight savings) there is a free swimming group and swim coaching classes.

Check out our short promo vid here.

The Melbourne Ocean Swimming Club ( a free swimming group based at WSLSC) and Williamstown Open Water Swim Coaching host hundreds of swimmers during summer months.

All groups meet 15 mins early in front of WSLSC:

Mid Week Mussels Free OW swim group- 6pm Wednesday.

Challenge Yourself – Learn to Swim in the Sea – 8am Saturdays.

Open Water Skills Group – 9am Saturdays- Learn about sighting, drafting, breathing, body position and tactical OW skills. For pool swimmers and triathletes.

The Mussels Free Swim Group – 10.30am Saturdays – Set your own distance and pace – “It’s not a race.”

Multiclass and Special Olympics OW Squad – 12noon on 11 November, 2 December, 11 December. For the first time, a supported inclusive, respectful OW squad for multiclass and Special Olympics athletes.

Contact Coach Jason to find out more.

 

Once I swam to Altona, and back …

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A swim from Williamstown Beach, out across the deep blue water to Altona Beach … and back? That’s 7.6km of swimming in the sea.

Are you crazy??

That’s what I first thought when the idea was put to me. I’m the guy squatting at bottom left of the picture above.

In the pic above are some very good swimmers. And then there’s me.

From the left, Freya is in the pink cap is super fit and so is Adam next to her. Vince at the back accompanied us on a Rescue Board. Grant, the muscleman at front & centre is an English Channel swimmer. Behind Grant is Faris and Simon (yellow cap). These two are talented freestylers who never stop, just like Joanie on the right.

In this pic (below) is the approximate course we take to Altona from Williamstown SLSC.

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Leaving from the beach, we turn right at the end of the rock groyne and swim over “the Crystals.” This area is alive with plants, animals and every colour, but watch out for spiny urchins and sharp, slippery rocks.

crystals

At the end of the rock wall, we pass the old harbour and into Jawbone Marine Sanctuary we cruise.

Of everything to think about while swimming in the sea, I was most conscious of boats and powered water craft. But here I could relax and enjoy the sightseeing.

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There’s no boats and no fishing allowed in Jawbone and volunteers are helping the marine environment recover and prosper here and all the way around the Bay to Point Cook.

From Jawbone we swim, via the boating markers, past the historic fishing village near the mouth of Kororoit Creek  into Altona Coastal Park.

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I thought I would stop at Altona Dog Beach and get a lift back with Mike, who kindly drove my towel and drink over. But everyone else was jumping back in to swim all the way back. I couldn’t be the only one stopping at halfway.

In the end I surprised myself and completed the 7.6km round trip. This was the first time I had ever completed a big swim out in the sea. My trip to Altona and back really opened my eyes up to a great experience.

I’ve been swimming in the sea every week since my trip to Altona, two years ago.