Survey Results: X Ray of Open Water Swimmers

When we conducted our last poll on how swimmers from different countries defined “cold water”, a number of respondents suggested that we do a more comprehensive survey in order to get a better picture of open water swimmers.  So a couple of weeks ago we decided to launch a new survey (X ray of open water swimmers) to understand the who, what, where, when and why of open water swimmers.  We now have the results.

This is a fairly long post, but hopefully you will find it insightful.

A big THANK YOU to the 175 swimmers (61% male, 39% female) from 18 different countries that responded to this survey.

- USA (72 responses)
– UK (40)
– Spain (16)
– Ireland (11)
– Australia (9)
– New Zealand (8)
– Mexico (5)
– Sweden, South Africa, Netherlands, France, Canada (2)
– Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, Gibraltar, Brazil, Germany, Greece (1)

………………………………………………………….

1. Age

Average: 44 years old
Youngest: 19
Oldest: 72

X-Ray swimmer survey: Age Distribution

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2. What was your longest open water swim?
A crew of seriously long distance swimmers

Average: 16 km (10 miles)
Median*: 10 km (6.25 miles)

Longest - open water swimmer survey

* Where relevant (when the distribution is skewed), I am also including the median.  The median is the middle value in a distribution, above and below which lie an equal number of values.

………………………………………………………….

3. How many kilometers do you swim per year (pool + open water)?
More than from Paris to London

Average: 569 km (355 miles)
Median: 500 km (312 miles)

Yearly Distance - Open Water Swimmer Survey

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4. How many days do you swim on a typical month?
Practice makes perfect

Average: Swimmers swim 17 days per month.
–> 43% of swimmers swim more than 20 days per month.

Days swam per month - x ray open water swimmers poll

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5. How many years have you swum on a regular basis?
Lifetime sport

Average: 20 years
–> 49% of swimmers on this survey have swum more than 20 years of their lives.

How many years - x ray open water swimmers

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6. Of your total yearly swimming, what % is it in open water?
As much as I can 

Average: 34% of swimming done in open water.
Median: 25%

–> 20% of swimmers do more than 70% of their swimming in open water.

% swam in OW

………………………………………………………….

7. Where do you do most of your open water swimming?
Oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface 

Ocean: 58%
Lakes: 34%
Rivers: 6%
Lagoons: 2%

………………………………………………………….

8. Have you travelled more than 1 hour from home to swim or compete in open water?
Have goggles, will travel

95% of the swimmers in the survey have travelled more than one hour from home to swim or compete in an open water swim.  And actually, they’ve gone much further than that.  On average*, swimmers have travelled a maximum distance of 2850 km (1781 miles).

Since there are a few very long distances in the responses skewing the average, it is also relevant to look at the median, which is 640 km (400 miles).  This means that 50% of the responses have travelled more than 640 km and 50% less than 640 km.

–> 43% of swimmers in this survey have travelled more than 1000 km (625 miles) for a swim.

Distance travelled to swim  - x ray swimmer survey

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9. Have you completed or are you planning on swimming any of the following swims?
Hell yeah! – 28 English Channels, 14 Manhattan Island Marathons, 10 Straits of Gibraltar…

62% of respondents said that they have swum, are planning, or would be interested in at least one of the 9 big swims swims below.  38% were not interested.

For these 9 swims, the swimmer completing the survey had an accumulated 68 crossings,  226 willingness to cross, and 96 current plans to swim these.

–> 28 swimmers had swum the English Channel, 14 the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, 10 the Strait of Gibraltar, 9 the Catalina Channel.

–> The swim that the largest number of people would like to swim was the Strait of Gibraltar with 38, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim with 36 and English Channel with 33.

–> 19 swimmers are currently planning to swim the English Channel,  followed by Catalina Channel (17 swimmers), the Strait of Gibraltar (15) and MIMS (13).

Big Swims - Open Water Swimmer Survey

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10. What is your motivation for swimming? (can select more than one answer)
Where should I start?

78% of respondents mentioned that they swim to stay fit. More than 50% of swimmers also mentioned that they swim because they are “training for a competition”, “Just for fun”,  “to relax” and because they “are addicted to it”,.  (Responses do not add up to 100% since swimmers were not limited to one response).

This question also had an open field where swimmers could mention other reasons not included in this question.  Reasons that were mentioned by a significant number of swimmers were related to “connecting with nature” and thinking about “nothing / zoning out”.  If these answers had been included as options, I believe that they would have been selected by a good number of swimmers.

Why do you swim - x ray for open water swimmers survey

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11. What do you consider “important” for your open water swimming needs? (can select more than one answer)
Survival of the fittest

77% of swimmers in the survey considered that increasing their visibility in the water was important.  Hydrating on the go was the second most important element, selected by 47% of swimmers. Swimmers don’t seem to be too concerned about animals though.  Only 10% of swimmers thought that 1st aid marine animal sting protection was relevant to them, and reducing the risk of shark attacks was important by only 13% of swimmers.

What's important for you - Swimmer Survey

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12. For those elements you think are important, how satisfied are you with the existing products out there to solve your needs?
Room for improvement

–> 77% of swimmers think that visibility is important (previous question).  67% of these swimmers are satisfied or very satisfied with the existing products that increase their visibility.

On the other hand, we see the highest levels of dissatisfaction in those elements that are least important to swimmers.

–> Only 10% of swimmers are concerned about 1st aid marine animal sting protection, and 78% of these swimmers are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the products that exist for this purpose.

Satisfaction - Open Water Swimmer Survey

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13. What do you think about when you swim in open water? (can select more than one answer)
Left brain and right brain at work. The luxury of true disconnecting 

The most popular answer was “technique and form”, selected by 67% of swimmers.  Second came “Dreams, projects”, with 44% of swimmers.

This question also gave a free field so that swimmers could mention other topics.  The most mentioned things in the free field were “nature”, “nothing, meditation, zoning out”, “navigation” and “counting strokes”.

–> Swimmers think about practical matters when swimming.  But also, and very prominent in the answers,  we see that swimming in open water allows us to get away from the constant distractions of our connected lives and lets our mind go on its own.

What do you think about - open water swimmer survey

………………………………………………………….

xxxxxx

14. When you swim in open water, what are you worried about running into? (can select more than one answer)
From the omnipresent to the deadly

50% of swimmers are worried about swimming into jellyfish.  Boats came in second place, with 46%, followed by jetskis with 36%.  Sharks are less common, but touch a cord with 23% of swimmers.

Open Water Swimer Survey - What are you worried about?

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15. What are your favorite open water forums, communities, blogs? (open question)

114 swimmers mentioned 55 different sources of information.  Most popular:

The Marathon Swimmers Forum (mentioned by 26 swimmers)
Loneswimmer (12 swimmers)
Open Water Source /  Daily News of Open Water Swimming  (12 swimmers)
H2Open (9)
OWSwimming / Swim 4 Good (7 – we do not belong so high in this list, we were clearly benefitting from a natural skew as survey organizers)
– USMS groups and forums (7)
- Facebook Did You Swim Today group (6)
- Wanaka Lake Swimmers (5)
- Oceanswims.com (4)
- Fermoyfish (3)
- Marnaton (3)
- Facebook Local Swim Groups (3)
- Swim Swam (3)
- NYSwim (2)
- Robaquatics (2)
- Swim Smooth (2)
- 33 other sources receive 1 mention each

………………………………………………………….

16. What are your favorite open water events / competitions? (open question)

There were around 120 events that swimmers highlighted among their favorites.  The events mentioned more than once were:

- Marnaton Cadaqués, Spain (7 swimmers)
– English Channel, UK – France (8)
La Jolla Rough Water Swim, USA (7)
NYC Swim (Little Red Lighthouse, Statue of Liberty) USA  (5)
Beginish Island, Ireland (4)
NYC Swim, MIMS USA (4)
Sandycove Island Challenge, Ireland (4)
Alcatraz Sharkfest / Escape from Alcatraz USA (4)
South End Rowing Club Alcatraz Invitational USA (3)
Brownsea Island Swim, UK (4)
Challenge Wanaka, New Zealand (3)
The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, USA (4)
Big Shoulders, USA (3)
Strait of Gibraltar, Spain – Gibraltar (2)
Rottnest Channel Swim, Australia (2)
Human Race (2)
Henley Swim Series, UK (2)
Newport Beach Pier to Pier, USA (3)
Cold Water Swimming Championships, UK (2)
Swim Across America, Long Island Sound Swim, USA (2)
Swim the Suck, USA (3)
Maui Channel Swim, USA (2)
– Trans Tahoe relay, USA (2)
– Travessia Lac Banyoles (2)

………………………………………………………….

17. What are your favorite spot for open water swimming?

More than 120 spots were mentioned.  Particularly popular spots were La Jolla Cove, Lake Wanaka, San Francisco Bay, Sandycove, Costa Brava, Balearic Island, among others.  In this map, I have added all the spots mentioned.  The number of pins in each spot reflect the number of swimmers that mentioned it as their favorite.  We would love for this map to take a life of its own.  Please add into this map your favorite open water swimming spots.

If you did not participate in this survey, please pin your favorite open water swimming spot in the map: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=214792134511792244267.0004d5d22e22a33e7eded&msa=0

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We hope that you find this information interesting.  Feel free to send any feedback, questions, comments or requests.  If you are interested in seeing any particular cross-tabulation analysis (i.e. does swimmer motivation change much between younger and older swimmers, do women swim on average longer distances per year, etc…), let us know as well.

Related Posts

X-ray of open water swimmers (5 minute survey)

Results of the Cold Water Poll for Open Water Swimmers



Categories: Polls & Surveys

15 replies

  1. Wow, super poll Mauricio.I am of course thrilled with the results of Q15, thanks you!

  2. For the question o how many years people have swum, can you put it as a % over age? What % of your life have you swum….it might take out the age difference in the question.

  3. Really interesting survey – pleasing to see the Henley Swim events mentioned as one of the favourite events. It would be interesting to know what makes the events popular – the location, distance or other factors.

    • Thanks for your input Georgina and congrats on the Henley Swim. Everything I’ve read about it is spectacular. Hopefully one of these years I’ll have the opportunity to experience it first hand. IN the meantime, regards from Barcelona!

  4. Reblogged this on Channeled in and commented:
    This is definitely an FAQ! Awesome work.

  5. Outstanding data! Am linking an open swimmer buddy of mine.

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