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The Fetch: A Swimmers Guide to Open Water and Pounding Surf

posted May 30, 2007 @ 9:52 PM  |  Open Water Swimming category

~By Scott Bay

…And the sea will grant each man new hope…

img_1473%20%282%29.jpgI spend probably more time at the beach than most of my fellow team mates and I love the open water swims the best. Swimming in the surf especially when it is big is a skill all by itself.

Binge Swimming provided the Dynoswim Team with an advanced tutorial in this particular aspect of open water swimming. The Fetch is calculated by multiplying wind velocity by time by distance. It determines how big it will get out in the impact zone (where the waves break). Since we have multiple sand bars in this part of the world you can get two maybe three impact zones and in between is what is referred to as inside (where the wave breaks then closes out and then reforms and breaks again).

An unusual bit of weather for this time of year had the wind blowing at 20-25 knots out of the east (huge fetch, multiple impact zones, big and nasty).

Into this equation walks Emily…from Nebraska, educated in Ohio. Most folks outside of the surfing subculture or the fluid mechanics lab at MIT know very little of hydrodynamics and the often strange behavior of several thousand tons of seawater moving in a particular direction but I am sure this weekend would prove to be an education for us all.

The surf was HUGE, way overhead and sloppy. Seas were equally big at 8-10 feet. Most fishermen stayed in this weekend rather than get pounded. We went for a swim.

Saturday May 26, five of us including Emily. A bad experience in the waves during the week had made her unsure of this whole swimming today thing. We had practiced some open water skills in the pool the day before so she was ready but cautious. We sat and watched the ocean. We talked about the power of nature and the respect we all have for each other and the sea. We looked for the rivers of current that would carry us out through the surf and in we went.

Through the impact zone to the inside then through the other impact zone and then we were there… 600 meters offshore and in 8-10 ft swells. Just outside the impact zone we could watch the waves go in and break. We swam north and it was pretty much up and down swimming.

We stopped and talked about how and where to go in. lots of watching and waiting. We all go in and have an easy time on the way in…no one was rolled …no surf rash from the bottom.

Next day in and outs. Using fins (useless if you buy the wrong kind) we work on going in and out of the pounding surf. That was way big fun. It was as big as the day before or bigger. I wanted to do it over (I have thrill issues) and over but responsibility set in. I did have one scary moment. We were out a pretty good way (500M) and I got slapped by a huge wave (not paying attention). I was rolled hard and then the water got cold and very dark. I knew I was waaaayyyy under. I felt my foot hit the ocean floor and I thought about how deep I must be. I exhaled and followed the bubbles. I breached the surface and I think my fellow Dynoswimmers thought I was dead because I was down so long.

All in all a great weekend. We all learned a lot from each other and about each other. I think we all are more confident swimmers having overcome fears or accomplished goals or both. Having met Emily and seen what she has been through during these last 10 days in terms of swimming, I am confident she will make her 9 mile swim. She has shown a great deal of toughness and tenacity. I look forward to celebrating another Dynoswim achievement!


Great article Scott, I'll remember the tuck and roll for the rest of my life!!!! Yesterday I practiced "surfing the goggles" just for kicks. You may think I'm lying, but I miss that damn ocean (and those crazy swimmers!! :) i'm really excited for Aug. 4th. Thanks for everything!

Posted by Emily Nohner on June 1, 2007 @ 11:48 AM

Scott: Tears of fear from this Mom--I am glad you guys are all OK. However, I am certain that she will swim the lake!

Posted by Mary Nohner on June 1, 2007 @ 5:13 PM

Emily, Three weeks ago, did you ever think you'd actually miss being pounded by 10 foot waves, swallowing ocean water and getting motion sickness while swimming? Not only did you do it, you did it well. You should be very pleased that you achieved that goal. Now onto the next! Everyday: See it, feel it, live it, believe it and it shall be. Plus, you'll have to kick ass at practice between now and then!

Just remember, the fastest way from point A to point B is in a straight line. :-) I truly didn't mind being a human lane line. I wouldn't have wanted to explain to your parents that you swam off to the Bahamas on us.

We'll miss you at the next ocean swim. It was fun! See you Aug. 4th!

Posted by Judi on June 1, 2007 @ 11:36 PM


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