Swimming Around the World: Open Water Destination Races

<strong>Competitors start the men's 10K race at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships in Seville, Spain</strong><br><br>  AP Photo/Miguel Angel Morenatti
The increasing popularity of open water swimming has opened a whole new world of vacation opportunities for swimmers. The idea of combining an athletic event with a vacation isn't new; many runners have been traveling to distant lands for 10K's and marathons for years.

Before the upsurge in open water events, swimmers could travel to compete in pools, but they would be staring at the same black line on the bottom whether they were in Peru or Peoria.

These days, destination events for open water swimmers can be found all over the globe. Many races are linked with a local resort, so you can sleep just steps away from the starting line.  Most destination races are held on a Saturday or Sunday, so you can either spend the previous week training at the racecourse, the following week splashing around and overeating, or both.

In the Caribbean, open water competitions are held on St. John (www.friendsvinp.org), St. Croix (www.swimrace.com), and Bonaire (www.aquamoonadventures.com), just to name a few. Randy Nutt, owner of Aqua Moon Adventures, has been organizing destination swims in the Caribbean and elsewhere since 1979.

After taking a college trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Randy was hooked on traveling, and tied with his love of open water he began organizing event destination trips. Nutt comments; "Traveling to an open water swimming event opens up several doors to a fulfilling life; a challenging event to test oneself, knowledge of different cultures, and beginning and rekindling relationships with other adventurous people."

In the Pacific, Hawaii boasts some of the most challenging and scenic open water swims in the world, including the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.  Further to the east, open water events are also held in Fiji and Vanatau. Australia is the undisputed king of open water, with dozens and dozens of competitions held every year (www.oceanswims.com).

Europeans are no strangers to the open water, either. Ireland alone hosts 25 different races during the summer months (www.swimleinster.com). Across the Irish Sea, the Great North Swim in England's Lake Windermere is in the heart of England's beautiful lake district.

In Italy, hundreds gather for a series of swimming and cultural events celebrating the Straight of Messina, a narrow stretch of water between Sicily and the mainland (www.traversatadellostretto.it). (Unless you speak Italian, you'll have to translate the website with Google).  Hundreds more European open water events big and small are listed at openwaterswimming.eu.

Closer to home, the U.S. has plenty of open water competitions in beautiful settings.  If you breathe to the right, you'll catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge during one of the very popular Alcatraz swims. On the east coast, take a tour of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, after you swim across Narragansett Bay in the Save the Bay Swim, or feast on crabs after swimming between two bridges during the 4.4 mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim.

When traveling for any athletic event, it's important to give yourself some time to acclimate to the local time, temperature, water, food, etc. It's also a good idea to check your health insurance policy to see if you're covered for injuries related to athletic activities held overseas. Several companies provide short-term policies at very reasonable rates that cover these types of adventures.

George "Hopper" McDonough is a freelance writer and founder of SwimVacation.

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