Adventure Swimmer

Living Life at Water Level



First – I want to thank everyone for following my new blog. I am in awe that close to 2000 people are follow it.

I have decided to write a quick blog about something that has been bothering me.  For those not in the swimming world I hope you can relate this to others things in your life.

To be honest – I am shocked that I am writing this.  I have been waiting for a few months to see if anyone else would bring this issue up and to my surprise – very little.

Please understand that what is bothering me is not the fact that this was done but that fact that the marathon swimming community choses to selectively identify what is allowed and not allowed.

In the past I have been criticized for the use of the words marathon swim for swims that I did wearing a wetsuit.  I accepted this, understood it and now am a huge proponent of protecting the purity of it.  With that being said I will continue to do swims both by marathon swimming standards and by what I call adventure swims (wetsuit assisted) but I will call it what is it. I am proud of both.

There has been so much discussion on the definition of marathon swimming.  Arguments between associations and amongst people.  To be honest it has gotten a bit nasty at times.

For all those who do not know what marathon swimming is, I will try to explain it plain and simple.  It is the act of swimming great distances in the oceans, lakes and rivers.  It is done with NO outside assistance of any kind.  It is done wearing a porous swim suit, a pair of goggles and a cap.  The swimmer is on their own and must complete the swim under their own power.

There is much more to marathon swimming and different associations have their own rules (which I agree with) however the one thing that I believe all in the community can agree upon.  Marathon swimming is done with on your own with NO outside artificial assistance that aids the swimmers progress. PERIOD!  This is the basis for what marathon swimming is.

Here is where I am having trouble.  Maybe trouble is not the right word.  Lets say confused.  Why is the marathon community selective when it comes to what they consider right and wrong?  Throughout the open water season it is almost daily that I read about other marathon swimmers question the legitimacy of other swims.  Sometimes it is a bit silly sometime not. I ask you this….If the basic rule in marathon swimming is NO outside assistance, then why do those in the marathon swimming community consider swimming in the wake of a boat ok?  To be frank it seems to me to provide more speed than if a swimmer was in a wetsuit. I find it shocking and a bit hypocritical that people are tip toeing around this.  I find it hypocritical that they choose to go after someone who wears the wrong type of cap, but let this slide. If a wetsuit is considered outside assistance, why is being pushed through the water by a large object with a motor on it not.  I am just asking why.

The only argument that I have heard, which surprised me was “if you can why not”  To me this goes against the basic principle of marathon swimming.  Just because you can, does not mean you should.

Again, I am questioning why those that continue to criticize others for other infractions, do not stand up and cry foul here.  Drafting off the bow wake is considered by most assisted forward motion and is not pure swimming where the swimmer is on his/her own. Just like when I do a swim in my wetsuit.  It provides outside assistance and is not considered a marathon swim. I am not sure why the hard-liners are not saying anything.  They are even praising it. I was under the impression that a support boat is there for support and safety, not to increase the swimmers speed.  FINA, which is the governing body of swimming clearly states that drafting off any support boat is cause for disqualification RULE OW6.  I know that FINA does not govern marathon swims, but they have this rule in place because it provides an unfair advantage.  Marathon swimming does not allow drafting of any kind off a support swimmer, why in the world is drafting off a support boat any different?  I assume most think it is worse.

I bring all this up to try and get some clarity from those that believe that this is part of one of the last pure forms of athleticism, not criticize those that utilize this technique.  I bring it up to ask why do those selectively choose what is assistance and what is not.

In addition, this brings up the safety issue.  Do we really want swimmers tucking into the slip stream of a boat?  Things can go wrong quickly. Marathon swimming already has its inherent dangers.  Allowing this adds so much more.

My Mom always always use to tell me – just because you can does not mean you should.  Just because it does not officially state no drafting off the wake off a support boat in the official Marathon Swimming Rule Book – oh yeah there is none..does not make it correct.  Marathon swimming, I have been taught, is one person braving the elements on their own.  Have I been taught wrong?  If so then I have totally misunderstood what people are trying to show the world.

Many of these critics are first to criticize someone for putting on a wetsuit mid swim because they were getting stung by jelly fish but still wanted to finish the swim.  The critics cry foul at a swimmer who has just swam 14 hours and gets a hug from a loved one before they completely exit the water.  But say yippee when someone swims fast in the wake of a boat.  I am sooooooo confused.

A recent post on The Marathon Swimmers Forum describes things that are are not allowed in marathon swimming.  Here is an exerpt from the post.

B) Universally disallowed by sanctioning marathon organizations. (Note: some organizations will allow swimmers to use select items in an “assisted” or special category.)

1) Drafting
2) Fins
3) Booties
4) Headphones
5) Gloves
6) Paddles
7) Shark cages
8) Netting
9) Wetsuits
10) Face Guards
11) More than two caps
12) Physical contact (i.e., assistance in and out of water)
13) Rest on support vehicle or kayak
14) Performance enhancing drugsI

Did I just read this correctly?  #1 Drafting.  Again I am confused.  If the above statement is agreed upon by the marathon community then why are people not standing up.  Many may be asking why is this guy Jamie Patrick, the guy that calls himself the adventure swimmer, who sometimes wears a wetsuit concerned with this?  The answer is simple – I am utterly confused.  I have been through a great deal of criticism how I did swims in the past and I am trying to understand the double standard.  I agree that some of my swims are not marathon swims because of one simple standard that I thought everyone followed – No outside assistance.

You can read the entire post HERE.

I should also say that I have received a number of emails from big time marathon swimmers also questioning why those that are vocal are not vocal abut this?

Selectively choosing what is assistance and what is not is beyond confusing. I am confused and I can tell you that those outside the community are even more.

Here is my point.  If the community wants to stay true to what they believe then they need to stick to it. If you choose not to then not stop analyzing every last detail of someone else’s swim.  Please – also understand that I believe that people should do things the way they choose.

Some may be asking again – Why is Jamie Patrick writing this and why does it concern him.  To be honest, I am hurt.  I am hurt because for 3 years was the center of criticism.  Today I have embraced it, accepted it, learned from it and have moved on.  However, when something like this comes up it brings everything back to the for front for me.  To be honest I cringe every time I hear people attack others in this community.  I feel for them and hope they do not feel the pain I felt for so many years while doing the thing I love so much.  Then to see something like this not be brought up and discussed, makes me question why.  Why just select me.  Little old me.  I will move on, but in my opinion this great community needs to define what a marathon is.  It needs to be simple.  It needs to be broad.  If you think about it marathon swimming is simple.  A simple Mission Statement that gives the basics.  Do not argue about all the details.  Just something that outlines the basics.  And then stick by it for EVERYONE.  I can almost guarantee that drafting off a bow wake will not be included in the mission statement.

This post means nothing if the marathon community believes surf swimming on the boats bow wake is part of marathon swimming because then there is no double standard that I have described above. I guess I am just feeling sorry for myself.  If this is the case then I have totally misunderstood what marathon swimming is. I was under the impression that the spirit of marathon swimming was one man/woman living life at water level, braving the elements on their own.

Definitely not dazed, but extremely confused.



13 thoughts on “Confused

  1. I think you have to be pretty darn fast to be able to draft off the wake of a support boat… I think current assisted swims are a bigger issue.

  2. should a swimmer draft a boat in hawaii, the boat motor stirs up plankton that stings. problem solved..dont draft the boat..dont get stung. getting behind a boat also means a swimmer inhales exhaust fumes thatwill probably make them sick. if you get behind a boat in hawaii you run the risk of being propped..running into the boats propellar. we use outboard motors. the boat driver cant see the swimmer very well, if at all. i think it is a dangerous situation for everyone involved.

  3. Hi Jamie, not sure where drafting behind a boat occurs. But I noticed I wrote about my Gibraltar swim about swimming behind the boat. However, the fotos show that the boat is far ahead – and it is at all times, therefore the smaller craft for feeding and safety closer to the swimmer. Hope this did not create any confusion.

  4. Very well written!

  5. Great discussion Jamie. What are your thoughts on a swimmer swimming close to the boat to be out of the wind and shielding him/her from wind chop?

  6. Jamie, great post. I totally agree. I have never liked the legalistic minutia in marathon swimming rules. “Don’t shake my hand! I’m a channel swimmer, for the love of God!”. It seems like the no touching rules were created by someone who doesn’t know how to swim. For a swimmer, staying afloat is easy. Treading water takes less energy than hanging on the boat.

    Forward progress is the hard part of marathon swimming. And drafting off the *boat* definitely aids with forward progress.

    I’m not a fan of wetsuits, but I’m not a fan of bioprene either. If gaining 30 lbs gives you an x% advantage in cold tolerance, I’d rather see someone use high-tech gear to give them the same advantage.

  7. I’m with ya, on all accounts.

  8. Pingback: Rules in marathon swimming: A community opinion survey

  9. Pingback: Marathon Swimming Rules Survey: Results and Analysis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,980 other followers