Tsugaru WTF

This route has always seemed a little bit mysterious to me…
I don’t get it.

...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

evmoMvGdanslos

Comments

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited July 2023

    My opinion, FWIW:

    I remember in the early days of this Forum (2012-ish), when legends like Steve Redmond and Penny Palfrey and Michelle Macy were battling it out to become the first O7 finisher (or first woman, or first American) -- and it was... exciting! It truly was. Here was a sport growing and maturing in real-time, and it felt like we were part of something special. Credit to Steven Munatones for inventing the O7. It's a fabulous list of iconic and interesting swims. It still is!

    But at some point, the O7 got in over its head. It became more than just some guy's list (which it always was, and still is), and began to take on pseudo-magical powers for swimmers who wanted to make a name for themselves or who needed Other People's Boxes (OPB) to tick in order to motivate themselves. And consequently, demand for these swims increased exponentially. As did the fees charged to swimmers.

    The Oceans Seven was never set up for this exponential increase in demand. It's just a list ... which combines places with well resourced organizations capable of accommodating more swims (English Channel, Catalina, and recently the North Channel), along with swims/organizers who just aren't equipped to handle a massive influx of international swimmers. Like Tsugaru and Molokai and (until recently, kinda) the Cook Strait.

    Yet still, "the list" somehow retains its pseudo-magical power, despite subpar support and frankly exploitative fees and policies from certain organizations. The swimmers just keep coming back, for whatever reason, which merely reinforces the situation.

    What to do?

    Some have suggested replacing Tsugaru with a different swim. I'm not sure this actually gets at one of the main underlying issues, which is people ascribing magical powers to some guy's arbitrary list. Tsugaru was an arbitrary choice. Whatever replaces it, would also be an arbitrary choice.

    david_barraMvGj9swimemkhowleyKatieBunBogdanZsarahcassidydanslosLakeBaggerStephenDanSimonellithelittlemerwookieWebstem67JustSwimSwimmersuzgregocIronMike
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    Credit certainly goes to Steve for introducing us to the Tsugaru Straight. From the photos, blogs and social media posts I’ve seen/read, the region looks incredibly beautiful and worth visiting for that (and the myriad ways to consume squid 🦑) alone.
    On the other hand, and from the comfort of my sofa, swim success always looked to be random. I understand the currents are strong and complex, but surely there must be someone who can more accurately model this straight with a better understanding of swimming speed and dynamics?

    j9swimemkhowleyMvGBogdanZevmosarahcassidydanslosLakeBaggerStephenDanSimonelliJustSwimgregocIronMike

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • MvGMvG MauritiusCharter Member
    edited July 2023

    Well said @evmo.

    I add a few thoughts that I have had in recent years on O7 and other bucket list challenges, not necessarily in a coherent order (and perhaps not even coherent in and by themselves).

    Taking Tsugaru out of O7 (who would do that actually?) might lead to sterile debates on the 'original' vs 'non-original' O7.
    Also it would not solve the core issue identified above. Why should we take somebody's arbitrary list to guide our choices for swims, and thus oblige ourselves to jump through near-impossible logistical and financial hoops?

    I am in awe of all who have managed to complete the O7, as it presents such a diverse set of swims. However I have decided some years ago already that I wouldn't try to complete it, at least for now, mainly for three reasons:
    1. My biggest problem with O7: the difficulties one can have in getting meaningful communication going with pilots for some of those swims, which for Cook Strait and Gibraltar were also (representatives or chair people of) the organisation certifying the swim... O7 was thus turning into a test of my patience - of which I have an admittedly limited supply - rather than of my capabilities as a swimmer, and I am not interested in that.
    2. One could argue that O7 is also and almost even more a test of one's financial (or crowdfunding) prowess than of swimming capability, and as @evmo said the effect of bucket lists is making this only worse.
    3. With inevitable massive air travel required, O7's carbon footprint is quite bad no matter where one is based. This is true for a number of other bucket lists of course, including the TC, and depending on one's location for many individual swims also.
    While I will admit that O7's footprint wasn't a decisive factor for me at the time, it has come to bother me more and more. I have been lucky enough to be posted for work in out-of-the-way places that allowed me to keep the additional climate impact of some of my swims there limited. But the carbon footprint of some of my other swims bothers me a great deal.

    However I am just as attracted as the next person to list-type challenges, especially if they come with paper crowns, having one's name printed in red on the famous Cork Distance Week towel, and being included in a list of illustrious swimmers in the MSF database until the end of times. For all of these reasons I just completed the Triple Crown and am still aiming for the Orginal Triple Crown/UK 3 Channel Challenge if the Bristol Channel will ever let me.
    The difference with O7? These challenges seem (slightly) less arbitrary as they consist of swims with a reputable history of attempts and successes AND are supported by capable organisations and pilots. That makes them more accessible for those ready to try, and thus more replicable. But they are still expensive and may well get oversubscribed too.

    I haven't completely made up my mind yet as to bucket list challenges but am more and more inclined towards building my own unique 'swim CV', a mix of iconic and challenging swims best suited to my physical, financial, geographical and temperamental capacities and limitations. To pioneer a few new meaningful swim routes, or revive dormant ones, would be the cherry on the cake. Lists such a O7 (with or without the Tsugaru Channel), but even more the Toughest Thirteen and the Stillwater Eight, will continue to inspire my choice of swims, but without being an obsession.

    emkhowleydavid_barraKatieBunBogdanZmusclewhale89evmosarahcassidydanslosLakeBaggerOpenh2oStephenDanSimonellithelittlemerwookieJustSwimSwimmersuzgregocIronMike
  • MvGMvG MauritiusCharter Member
    edited July 2023

    @david_barra said:
    On the other hand, and from the comfort of my sofa, swim success always looked to be random. I understand the currents are strong and complex, but surely there must be someone who can more accurately model this straight with a better understanding of swimming speed and dynamics?<

    From what I have learnt, a major problem, which I don't think exists for other swims, is that if the pilot decides that conditions are not swimmable, swimmers will forfeit their entire payment without even being offered another slot or window. This sounds bizarre and I stand to be corrected by those who have actually been in this situation, but if true the interests of the swimmr and the skipper are not aligned and there would obviously be a perverse incentive for the captain to declare the swim unswimmable.

    LakeBaggerevmoOpenh2omarysingergregocIronMike
  • LakeBaggerLakeBagger Central OregonSenior Member
    edited July 2023

    Some have suggested replacing Tsugaru with a different swim. I'm not sure this actually gets at one of the main underlying issues, which is people ascribing magical powers to some guy's arbitrary list. Tsugaru was an arbitrary choice. Whatever replaces it, would also be an arbitrary choice.

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything @evmo said. I don’t recommend swimming to check items off other people’s lists, but since people are going to do it anyway, maybe it makes sense for the list to not have extremely problematic items on it.

    If Tsugaru is replaced with a different swim, maybe it could be replaced with something that has the infrastructure (and flexibility of regulations) to support a lot of international swimmers. It would still be an arbitrary choice, but maybe it could be a swim with a higher success rate.

    If somehow Tsugaru got “replaced”, I think at that point it’s a new list (even if it’s the same name) and you get the new O7 and the old O7, or the new one gets called something different. Either way, it’s a slightly different challenge that hopefully would be more of a swimming challenge than a financial and communication/patience challenge (as Milko pointed out).

    Any new list needs a lot of publicity and community energy for it to take hold, especially if the new list were to take the place of the current O7 list. -Or- we could all just swim wherever we feel most drawn to and put that publicity energy toward celebrating interesting an unusual swims such as those found under msf documented swims. https://marathonswimmers.org/swims/

    Personally, I’m inventing the “Thrifty Three” list: choose one of each— any river, any lake and any ocean swim of marathon length and try to do all 3 for under $1500 total, including transportation costs. List of successful completions is rank ordered from lowest to highest total cost for the three swims. Mostly joking :)

    evmoMvGStephenKatieBunruthOpenh2oSwimmersuz
  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    When the logistics of doing the swim are more difficult than doing the actual swim, it starts to seem a little pointless to me.

    MvGKatieBunevmosarahcassidyDanSimonelliOpenh2oIronMike
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member

    Q?:
    Was there alway a 14 hour time limit for swimming this strait?

    Q?:
    Was there always a nighttime restriction for swimming this strait?

    Long Swim Database would suggest otherwise, and indeed successful swim times are all over the place.

    Curious to see what the WOWSA investigation shares…

    MvGKatieBun

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin

    @david_barra said:
    Was there always a 14 hour time limit for swimming this strait?

    No.

    Was there always a nighttime restriction for swimming this strait?

    No.

    Curious to see what the WOWSA investigation shares…

    WOWSA is also not the same as it used to be. I'd rather hear Steve Munatones' input, given his long history with both Japan and the Tsugaru swim, as well as his legitimacy as an actual marathon swimmer.

    david_barraMvG
  • MvGMvG MauritiusCharter Member
    edited July 2023

    WOWSA have posted an update:

    https://www.openwaterswimming.com/oceans-seven-challenge-ongoing-investigations-into-tsugaru-strait-channel-attempt/
    A useful first stocktaking with interesting details on the long list of recent failed swims, but not all questions are answered yet. More to come I hope.

    Eloquent and thoughtful as always, Sarah Thomas took a few days to prepare a detailed, unhappy but evenhanded account of her Tsugaru experience:
    https://sarahthomasswims.com/2023/07/23/tsugaru-the-full-version/
    Interesting insights into routes, currents history etc. as a bonus for the reader less well-versed in all things O7 and Tsugaru Channel. The piece de resistance is her account of downright unfair business practices & the arbitrariness and indifference with which swimmers are apparently being treated by Ocean Navi and their pilots, which will make any marathon swimmer's blood boil.
    And I think the questions Sarah asks are the right ones to help steer this discussion:
    '-Do you think Tsugaru should be removed from the Ocean’s Seven list?
    -Should it be replaced with another swim or just renamed the Ocean’s Six?
    -If you replace it, what swim should take its place?
    -Should the Ocean’s Seven even exist?
    '

  • brunobruno Barcelona (Spain)Senior Member

    I’m not a fan of lists, but I can understand others liking them, and trying to check them off.

    I’m not a fan either of only one Organization dealing oficially with one crossing (but that’s another discussion). Therefore I’m not rooting at all for Ocean Navi. Anyone offering a good, fair and clear service would be welcome.

    For me, the most interesting issue here is @david_barra ‘s question: modelling the straight with a better understanding of swimming speed and dynamics.

    As for the O7, at this point I think Tsugaru should be removed from the list, and replaced with another swim. This new swim should be sort of voted by marathon swimmers of all sorts - probably with some kind of weighting based on the CV and experience of the voter.

    IronMike
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin

    Announcement from Ocean-Navi (source: https://ocean-navi.com/channel-swimming-support/)


    Since 2008, we have supported the Tsugaru Strait Crossing Swim. Over the past 16 years, we have welcomed a total of 142 swimmers/groups and have been present at the completion of 73 swims. Meeting these world-class marathon swimmers has been a great inspiration to us, and we have been proud to be in a position to support them.

    This year, however, due to the tidal conditions and unfavorable weather at the time of start, not a single attempt was able to complete the swim. This was the first season since Japan's COVID travel restrictions were completely lifted, and our hearts go out to all the swimmers who had to suffer through such an unfortunate outcome. We and our captains are very disappointed as well.

    We are aware that some voices within the international marathon swimmer community have expressed a great deal of dissatisfaction with the situation and have called for improvements in terms of costs and operations. However, we have done the best we can under the current circumstances, and we cannot promise any further improvements.

    The Tsugaru Strait is a challenging strait with strong winds and currents. Their force can be far beyond human ability, and we are powerless in such circumstances. In addition, the sea conditions have been changing rapidly in recent years, and according to local fishermen, it has become very difficult in recent years, especially this year, to predict the time of day and area where the currents will occur, as well as their strength.

    In addition, since this is an international strait through which Chinese and Russian warships and large cargo ships also pass, cooperation with the Coast Guard is essential. Recent international relations and last year's fatal accident off the coast of Hokkaido involving a sightseeing vessel have made the Coast Guard's demands for safety even stronger, and we are not able to carry out our work against their directions.

    In light of this situation, we have come to the conclusion that it will be difficult for us to actively accept international swimmers in the future. Those who have already applied and those who are currently on the waiting list will be contacted individually.

    angel55
  • SylleSylle SwedenMember

    @MvG said:
    3. With inevitable massive air travel required, O7's carbon footprint is quite bad no matter where one is based. This is true for a number of other bucket lists of course, including the TC, and depending on one's location for many individual swims also.
    While I will admit that O7's footprint wasn't a decisive factor for me at the time, it has come to bother me more and more. I have been lucky enough to be posted for work in out-of-the-way places that allowed me to keep the additional climate impact of some of my swims there limited. But the carbon footprint of some of my other swims bothers me a great deal.

    Not really adding anything to this topic myself but very happy to see someone highlight this aspect with regard to marathon swimming.

    david_barraMvG
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    edited September 2023

    I used to be excited about lists. (Stillwater 8, I see you.) Then I came back to reality*. Now I'm happy doing one marathon and maybe Swim the Suck annually. Enough.

    The only O7 I'd ever been interested in was Gibraltar. I was on the waitlist for two years, never got a slot. Oh well.

    But this Tsugaru thing. Strange. One option not spoken about above (or I missed it?) is to just have an Oceans 6. Solves the problem to two different O7 lists. People who have done O7 have also done O6. Just update the long swims database to include O6. Thoughts?

    *Reality as in ability, time, and definitely money.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    It kind of loses the charm of "the seven seas". Osix also sounds a bit like a health supplement advertised on late night cable tv. But I'm not really a list guy, so I don't have a real opinion on this.

    LakeBagger
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