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Sports Center

Jul 29, 2019 11:42 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Open Water Swimming

A happy crew after another excellent open water swim workout, framed by coaches Anita LaGrassa, far left, and Tim Treadwell, far right. MIKE BOTTINI
Jul 29, 2019 1:44 PM

Are you looking to improve your swim time in a triathlon? Planning to participate in an open water swim event? Do you want to get in a good, fun workout? Perhaps you simply want to get more comfortable taking a long swim in the bay or ocean.If any of these notions ring true, the East Hampton YMCA’s Open Water Swim Training program—YOWST for short—is for you.

Led by master’s swim coach Tim Treadwell and assisted by Anita LaGrassa, both certified and active members of the East Hampton Town Volunteer Ocean Rescue (EHVOR) organization, YOWST meets at Alberts Landing beach in Amagansett every Monday and Friday at 8 a.m. and Wednesday at 7 a.m. The hour-long sessions include a warm-up swim, sighting and porpoising (entering and exiting the water quickly) drills, practicing efficient turns at swim course buoys and how to draft off another swimmer, and learning to relax while swimming in a crowd.

Over the course of the program, participants encounter all sorts of open water conditions from beautiful, calm, flat water to challenging windblown chop and waves. Occasionally, while we always meet at Alberts Landing, we’ll head to Atlantic Avenue beach for some training in the ocean. The latter would include learning how to get through the surf zone and, just as important, how to get back in to the beach quickly and easily.

One very important lesson that everyone has learned from experience is that it can be very difficult to determine the direction of the current from land. On the bay side, the source of the current is the tide. An incoming tide at Alberts Landing flows north, and the ebb or outgoing tide flows south. From shore, a northerly wind—meaning a wind blowing from the north toward the south—forms chop and waves that creates the illusion of a current flowing southward even when the flood tide is flowing north.

The best way to determine the direction of the current is to get in the water.

Swimmers, even those wearing a full wetsuit and floating relatively high in the water, are still mostly in the water and at the mercy of currents. In contrast, standup paddle boarders and kayakers have most of their mass on top of and out of the water, and are largely at the mercy of the wind. Both swimmers and paddlers need to compensate for the “set” of current or wind in plotting their course toward a destination, and the influence of set is greatest when perpendicular to their respective directions of travel, and obviously when the current or wind is strongest.

On the ocean side the source of the current is the wind, regardless of the tide. This current has several names. Among lifeguards it is known as the “sweep, ” while coastal geologists refer to it as the “longshore current” or “littoral drift.” A prolonged wind out of the east will create a westward moving sweep, but it takes some time to overcome the ocean water’s inertia and set things in motion. Likewise, you may find a noticeable sweep when there is no wind, a remnant of the wind’s work earlier in the day. As with the bay, the best way to determine the direction and strength of the ocean sweep is to get in the water.

Some final words on YOWST. This program is ideally suited for all abilities, and all abilities have been on hand this past month. Tim and Anita do an excellent job of designing the workout to keep everyone together and safe. In addition, there are always other members of the EHVOR on hand for the great workouts, providing a high ratio of lifeguards to swimmers in the water. No one is ever left behind. This year, I’ve noticed that more people are using fins for the workouts, which seems to help their overall body position in the water. And they are generally able to keep up with the fastest swimmers in the group.

There are at least 12 YOWST sessions left this summer, and August is a perfect time of year for open water swimming. So come on down to Albert’s Landing beach and join us!

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