I am training for an open water race next week in San Francisco so I drove out to Zuma beach in Malibu for my second 1.2-mile open water training swim. (Yes, I should have taken this race more seriously but I prefer pool swimming for many reasons and most of those reason are about time and social value.)
3/4-of-a-mile into the swim I got stung by a jellyfish. I have never known Southern California jellyfish to be dangerous so when it happened I kept swimming. There was a lot of pain for about five minutes but it was quickly subdued by the unseasonably cold water; (La Nina is still going strong here), latter the pain returned when I exited the water and lasted about 35-more-minutes or so.
On the beach walking back to the car, I saw what I believe to be several comb jellyfish strewed all about. There were about four-inches-long and were gelatinous blobs with no tendrils or colors. We usually get big ones, a different type that have purple stripes and blobby tendrils when the water is warm. These guys almost look like plastic-bag litter. Seagulls were feasting on the ones that washed up with the high tide which I guess means that Seagulls like hot sauce?
In 2007 at the FINA World Champion of Swimming in Australia the open water race featured some seriously dangerous jelly fish. After the race I was enthrall by the condition some of the racers were in. Several swimmers had long lines of red across their arms am faces. It was as if they were flogged with a fiber optic strand with barbs. I made a post about it that quoted the winner:
"... In the 5km nothing worried me, the conditions were perfect," [Russian swimmer Larisa] Ilchenko said after her win. "Today, I could hear the girls behind me screaming in the first lap. I expected it to be the same as the 5km, instead we're all walking around with spotty red faces. ..."
[EuroSport Link expired - New Link as Proof]Spotty red faces? That is dedication to the race.
If here is a moral to this story, the moral is that open water swimming is probably more dangerous than MMA fighting. If one audited the last two or three FINA World Championship open water races, two at the very least were scandalous. It's amazing what peril open water swimmers are in even when they race within FINA sanctioned races. This is not just a FINA problem but a global one.
I don't think open water racing at the Olympic level will survive. One death; and dying in an ocean or lake is not hard to do, and this Olympic event will be axed.