The Dangers Of Open Water Swimming and The Duties of A Guide


Susan, to Doug, as he steps out of the shower and she sees the red streaks on his back … “What happened to you?”

Doug … “My guide boat hit me. It only happened once this time.”

The picture above does show what looks like a confusing open water course. This picture was taken by Gordy, one of the guides for A Long Swim. He and his brother, Bill, are the regulars and, to hear Doug tell it, they’re usually arguing over donuts or pulling things out of the water rather than keeping track of him.

On a nice day a guide has a pretty easy job. Just follow along and enjoy the ride. But if the weather is cold you need to watch for hypothermia. That means counting strokes, managing feeds a little more closely and talking to your swimmer a whole lot more. Definitely no guide boat donut arguments.

I’m guilty of hitting him once. He was training on his favorite pond, Chilmark, on Martha’s Vineyard. I was in a kayak and it was foggy. We were 100% alone and that is a little scarey for me since I can’t swim. The first rule of a good guide is to be able to swim and rescue if necessary. But, he was desperate to swim and I was available and that was that. I saw him swimming off course and attempted to follow him but he turned his course in the right direction and right toward me. I screamed, he didn’t hear me and his arm thumped over my bow. He wasn’t happy but is always patient and winked and just kept going.

A real guide should be a real lifeguard. This new year’s eve, after a few glasses of champagne, we were making our new year’s resolutions and the room just stopped and stared when I made mine … to become a lifeguard. “You don’t know how to swim!”

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