When open water swimmers tell others what they do, they often are the recipient of the following question:

Why?

Non-swimmers want to know why another human would subject themselves to swimming marathon distances, or in the cold water, or with sharks, or subject themselves to jellyfish stings, currents, and waves. Or why someone would willingly swim at night or without a wetsuit?

Why do you do that? Why would you do that? Why you?

And many times, swimmers cannot eloquently articulate why they swim in the open water. They know instinctively why, but it is hard to explain their motivations succinctly and clearly to non-swimmers. Tell another marathon swimmer that you are doing the English Channel and they say, “Great! When? Who is your pilot?” They don’t ask why. They instinctively know why.

In contrast, tell a non-swimmer that you are going to swim 20 miles in the cold ocean at night with sharks and jellyfish and they ask, “Why?” But even with a reply, non-swimmers remain puzzled. They often continue their inquiry of you, “Aren’t you scared? Worried? Won’t you be tired? Cold? Stung? Eaten?” In general, the risk-oriented response from non-swimmers is completely different from the approach of encouragement, support and wonder from swimmers. Instead of facing questions of why, swimmers face statements grounded in optimism from other swimmers whether the planned swim is 1 mile or 20.

Simon Sinek is a communicator of why and author of Start With Why: How Great
Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek explains why people do the things they do and why some have the capacity to inspire. He describes his Golden Circle below and discusses how inspirational individuals think, act and communicate.

The concept of Why, the purpose, cause or belief that drives humans, especially those who push themselves to reach their potential in the open water, is fascinating.

So why do you do it? Tell us why.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association