Awards in the OWS World

Whenever you say you are an Open Water Swimmer – let alone an Ice Swimmer – people look at you with a deep sense of disbelief and concern. Even other pool swimmers usually ask the ubiquitous and unanswerable question: Why on Earth would you do that? 

The funny part is that there are no meaningful awards – monetary or otherwise – to be attained. The three most sought after feats (Triple Crown, Oceans Seven and Ice Mile) in both sports hold no physical recognition. In my trophy corner at home, the prize for winning a 2.4-mile race in Turks & Caicos is way bigger and nicer than my English Channel printed certificate. And I can assure you the latter was more painful and expensive than the former.

A very expensive, Bruger King crown

Perhaps to compensate this lack of incentive, the two organizations regulating OWS globally, namely the World Open Water Swimming Association (“WOWSA”) and the Marathon Swimmers Federation (“MSF”) started offering annual awards in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Now, both organizations are extremely different: while WOWSA is the umbrella of the sport, which values equally wetsuits and skins, cold and hot, short and long swims; MSF only takes into account “marathon” swims (i.e. 10K or more) performed in an English Channel fashion. Both bodies are based in California but MSF tends to be more US-centric than WOWSA is.

For 2018 WOWSA offered four categories: Man, Woman, Performance and Offering of the Year. The 15 male nominees formed quite a mix: Olympic and World Champions (Ferry Weertman, Kristóf Rasovszky, Maarten van der Weijden), “showmen” (Lewis Pugh, Ben Lecomte), Oceans Seveners (Cameron Bellamy, Ion Lazarenco, Rohan More), Ice Swimmers (Igor Lukin, Yaroslav Pronin), organizers (JL Larrosa, Ned Denison, Vladimir Mravec), a marathon butterflier (John Batchelder) and me :-).

WOWSA awards’ main goal is to promote the sport – and therefore there are no limitations in the global online poll. If you have a big social media footprint, or do the right marketing, you will surely beat the pros. In any case, Ion Lazarenco Tiron was a very deserving 2018 winner. 

MSF on the other hand is very strict on the voting of its five awards: Solo Swim, Barra, Streeter, Yudovin, Monahan. I have been pre-nominated for the Barra Award, along with 4 other candidates, and only swimmers registered and active in the OWS world will be able to vote. 

In addition to these two sets, pros have other awards including the FINA OWSer of the Year (Ferry Weertman, Ana Marcela Cunha) and Swimming World’s and SwimSwam’s OWSer of the Year (Kristof Rasovszky and Sharon Van Rouwendaal). This is no doubt another league.

Lastly, there are three Halls of Fame that also put together pros and amateurs: the International Swimming Hall of Fame (“ISHOF”), its sister organization the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (“IMSHOF”) and the brand-new Ice Swimming Hall of Fame. To this date, Montserrat Tresserras (who recently passed away) and Luisa Cabañeros (pro) are the only Spanish Open Water Swimmers that have been inducted to any of these three Halls of Fame. One day!