Is Solo/Channel/Ultraswimming a Competitive Sport? (Why or why not)
I'll start off by saying I don't have a firm opinion on this and am interested to see what other people think. For clarity, I'm referring specifically to swims where you are the only swimmer starting at that time on that day (not races like END-WET, SCAR, Portland Bridge etc, or FINA).
On one hand, there are awards given, an international hall of fame to consider, lots of discussions about what makes someone "elite" in this sport, speed records and careful record keeping by swim associations and the longswims database. This isn't just people playing around in the ocean until they find themselves in France. There's a competitive element there... or maybe just an attempt to give credit for outstanding swimming where credit is due.
On the other hand, many people I've talked to say they are not in this for the competition/comparison with others, but rather for a personal challenge... like an ambition that they just measure against themselves. They just want to see if they can do it or not on that day, with those conditions.
Even for people motivated by competition (which by the way, I fully condone, any motivation is good motivation), it's terribly difficult to make accurate comparisons between swimmers, due to the huge impact of conditions on speed or even ability to complete a swim. There are so many places to swim, with so many different factors involved. How do you compare an ocean swim of a certain distance at a certain temperature with certain winds and tidal currents with a lake swim at a different temperature with different currents and maybe even a somewhat shorter or longer distance? Can we really compete with one another under these conditions? Or is it more like art--like you made this incredible thing and people can really appreciate it (or not), but it's really totally unique to you and can't be objectively compared to others' art.
Thoughts, please? (Again, I'm kinda not sure and super curious what you think).