GCASA Open Water
Contact: Alan Giles
About competitive open water swimming
Although most people now think of swimming as the indoor pool programme, competitive swimming has its roots very much in taking to the water outside.
Open water swimming rose to significance after the International Olympic Committee listed a 10km race as one of the events for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Open water races can take place in any large outdoor body of water: seas, lakes, rivers, canals, reservoirs. The distance of each event varies from 1km to 80km, but at major competitive level, the typical distances are 5km, 10km and 25km.
Swimming in open water has a long and colourful history dating back as far as 36BC, when the Japanese organised the first open water races. The Romans held high-profile races in the Tiber, when thousands would crowd along the banks to watch and cheer. The Knights in the middle ages reputedly had to swim in full armour as one of their seven required agilities.
Although open water races had been held for over a hundred years it was not until 1986 that FINA, swimming’s world governing body, officially recognised the event again and added it to the international competition calendar.