As you will know, I myself am a sucker for provocation, and no doubt that’s also the reason why my favourite outdoor swimming magazine H2Open has chosen to publish this reader note in their October/November issue. It makes other readers like me fly off the handle, and it’s fine. But what I don’t get here is the rhetoric. How is it supposed to contribute constructively to the debate? Why so much contempt?
Last time I checked, swimming in Speedos doesn’t give anyone an exclusive right on the English Channel or any other body of water for that matter. There should be room enough for everyone. I think the growing interest for open water swimming in general is a great development for our sport. Whether people do it in wetsuits or in swimming trunks is irrelevant. Trends evolve and so should mentalities. Why should the amazing crossings we do be the prerogative of a selected group?
And for us in this selected group, what are we so afraid of? That wetsuits would degrade the prestige of our own performances? By holding separate records for swimmers in trunks and in wetsuits (like in some competitions today), all performances will be acknowledged at their full value. Allowing wetsuits would make marathon swimming more attractive and accessible to more people. It would enlarge – and enrich – our global community and there would be more of us to promote it. No matter how you do it, crossing the English Channel remains a huge achievement, even in a wetsuit. It takes more than a weakling to make it all the way to France!
As to the cheating part, yes, the buoyancy you get from the neoprene will indeed help you float, stay warm and save energy. But no one will ever cross 30-40 km of water by floating and staying warm alone. Those arms won’t fly around by themselves. The endurance, the mental challenge, the whole preparation process – you still have to work your ass all the way to the other shore. And for some people who can’t acclimatize, are disabled or find safety in a thin layer of neoprene, the wetsuit can make a difference. Is that reason enough to exclude them?
As far as I’m concerned, I would never have become a marathon swimmer in Speedos if I hadn’t had a wetsuit in the first place. My wetsuit gave me access to the ocean. It made me feel safe and confident at a time where outdoor swimming was still in its infancy in Denmark. My wetsuit helped me push the distances covered until I realized I was strong enough to do the long swims. Little by little, I learned to let go of my wetsuit. Today I would NEVER dream of wearing a wetsuit again, but it doesn’t give me the right to despise other people’s journey and take a patent on certain crossings. I see wetsuits a bit like relays – they open doors and introduce people to marathon swimming and some amazing crossings. Who are we to deny them that opportunity?
Some people will jump right at it, others won’t. But I doubt arrogance and insults will ever inspire anybody.
I’m sorry, Theodore, but this kind of statement says more about you than about swimmers in wetsuits or any considerations of giving them access to official crossings. Share your passion for our amazing sport, not your contempt.
And please, get some sex! 😜
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