FOR FIRST TIME SWIMMERS IN OPEN WATERS
FIRST TIMERS ADVISE
In the text below I will try to answer the questions that some of the swimmers ask and who are going to experience the swimming crossing for the first time or they have already asked us on occasions.
A swimming-crossing in open sea is a crossing where the swimmer will find himself alone, without seeing anybody around him, only water and more water, this new experience can cause a new feeling like anguish or desperation.The most important is always not to panic and do not become nervous, because there will be certainly other swimmers or kayak near you to help in any way you need.
The swimmer who for the first time tries to join this event must have had the right training to face this crossing, this means swimming for more than three hours without any difficulty.
The distance between Tabarca Island and Santa Pola is 5900 metres, but if any bad weather conditions arise, big waves, strong opposing currents, those 5900 metres can become a lot more difficult than you imagined.
The visual references, when swimming in open waters, are different to the white line in a swimming pool or using the edge. It is important to locate these references by raising your head up and looking for the buoys that mark the route, the shortest way.
It is important to have done some of your training in open waters, where you can come across situations similar to those occurring on the day of the crossing, which you won’t experience in a swimming pool, side waves, rough sea, opposing currents, and get your vision used to views you will have when swimming in open waters. (normally these views are spectacular but can become dark or even black)
It is important to have a friend during the crossing, if you haven’t found them in the pool or among your friends you can look for one in the crossing, most probably you will find somebody that swims at the same pace.
Training in open waters, along the shoreline, you may encounter scary jellyfish and you will discover that they are not so bad as it is said. You will find three sorts of jellyfish in this area:
- One is very big and very beautiful when they swim, usually you find them isolated, these do not prevent you from passing because they do not form a barrier, easy to see because of their size which make it easier to dodge them, you can even push them aside. The worst part of their body are their legs.
- Another sort of jellyfish, very common in this area, have a circular body from 2 to 7 centimetres, surrounded by little armful sticky legs. Usually you find them in isolation, and its poison is not very painful but it is uncomfortable. If one bites you at the beginning you can carry on till you arrive at the finish and you may not even remember where you had been bitten.
- Finally we have the ones considered to be the worst, they are the same size as the ones described above but its poison is a lot more painful, on top of that they move in shoals, like real barriers which make impossible to go through. The organisation will make a visual check of the area before the start in case there is one of this shoals.
- The organization before the start will check the crossing area to see if there is any shoal of these jellyfish.
What should you do in case of being bitten by a jellyfish:
- First of all do not panic, if you panic this could be worse than the jellyfish itself.
- Do not rub the affected area with your hand, if you rub you will spread the poison wherever you touch.
- If you think this is necessary, stop and sound your whistle, so any pirogue or boat can take you out of the water.
- Follow the Organisers´safety recommendations.
It is absolutely vital to know your own limits so as not to exceed your capabilities, so if you feel unwell, or get frequent cramps, it is much better to ask for assistance while you are still able, and NEVER, NEVER get to the stage of collapse.
A critical phase of this type of competition, is the Start; swimmers are not placed according to who is fastest or slowest. So this causes physical contact and nudging against other swimmers, which could cause -some distress- If you are not sure of your performance level compared with others and you wish to avoid this type of hindrance, it´s much better to place yourself at the rear, at the Start and then set your own rhythm from the outset, confident that later on you will pass some of the “machines” who set off at a frantic pace.
In the event of cramp setting in, one must stop until the affected area has duly settled down; if you are a long way from the Finishing Line, it´s better to abandon the event and merely try again next time; if you are near the Finishing Line the best advice then is to allow the muscle(s) to relax, but try NOT to force the leg with cramp, to move at all costs.
Another problem which often arises, is that of seasickness, with symptoms, identical to normal seasickness, namely vomiting and feeling ill generally. Somebody who has experienced this personally, recommends you then to abandon the swim and try once again next year. If you find when training in open sea you are prone to get seasick, try using silicone ear plugs.
It is important at the outset not to use a leg rhythm faster than the one you are used to, for a first open sea swim hang back a little and leave your best spurt till the Finish.
Before entering the water, it is vital to use vaseline, the most important points being the armpits and the neck, to avoid rubbing. Some swimmers who apply it all over the body say the extra layer cuts water resistance and at the same time gives protection from jellyfish
Let’s not forget that this competition is a popular one but in most cases you are just competing against your own performance record.
Let’s ensure it’s an unforgettable one and turn it into a great “fiesta”, but most of all remember that friendly attitude in the water can achieve that and, who knows, avoid it being cut short.