Tandem Swimming – Is the juice worth the squeeze?
by Scott Zornig
Marathon swimming is an expensive sport. My guess is that a 20-mile sanctioned solo marathon swim currently costs an individual $3000 to $5000 USD and this is prior to factoring in transportation, hotel accommodations and food. Chartering a vessel can be as much as 75% of the total cost of a marathon swim. As a result, some swimmers cut costs by sharing a boat and attempting a tandem swim with a person close in speed. Sharing a vessel not only yields a significant cost savings, but can also provide piece of mind as it may be comforting to know someone is in the water with you. A duo attempt may also produce a training partner as it is always important to practice together leading up to the endeavor.
Unfortunately, Tandem marathon swimming is not easy because no two swimmers are the exact speed. Even if the two swimmers are close, the fastest of the two swimmers must swim the pace of the slower swimmer. This may be fine for a few hours, but is not a great deal of fun for the faster swimmer when cold and/or hypothermia sets in. It is equally difficult for the slower athlete as he or she may feel constant pressure to “speed up” or risk getting dropped yielding a prematurely fatigued swimmer. The farther the swim is, the greater the chance of issues arising.
A swimmer needs to decide if the juice is worth the squeeze. Do the benefits (reduced cost, piece of mind and automatic training partner) outweigh the potential problems? If the answer is yes, the pair can increase the chance that both are successful by:
- Identifying a partner who is very close in speed and has the ability to swim long distances in cold, rough open water.
- Finding a partner who is willing to spend a great deal of time practicing and training together.
- Securing a partner who shares similar toughness and mental fortitude.
- Obtaining a partner who is completely comfortable sharing the glory, time, place in history and experience with you.
- Chartering a vessel with a pilot who has experience escorting tandem swimmers.
- Writing a swim plan where each swimmer agrees to speed, feeding times, duration of feedings, position in water, proximity to boat, side of boat etc.
- Including in the plan all the possible “What if’s.” For example, “which swimmer exists the water if the two become separated by a few hundred yards and the boat cannot stay with both swimmers?” or “what is the call if one swimmer is inhibiting both swimmers chance of success?”
Tandem marathon swimming has benefits and the experience can be exciting to share with a swimmer/friend. The bottom line is that all factors should be carefully considered prior to making the decision to do it alone or together.