In the wake of the 2010 death of swimmer Fran Crippen, the United States Lifesaving Association is looking to update its guidelines on open water swimming event safety.
The nonprofit, professional association of beach lifeguards and open water rescuers has issued a call for comments and will review the issue at its April Board of Directors meeting.
“We want everyone who organizes these events to know that we’re looking at this and that they have the opportunity to provide input,” said B. Chris Brewster, president of USLA. “Absent any other guidelines, these recommendations tend to be de facto standards. …”
The current guidelines were developed in 2005, at the behest of USA Triathlon. And there has been a surge of interest in triathalon events and open water swimming events since then, Brewster noted.
Crippen, an elite level athlete, died while competing in a 10K race in the United Arab Emirates, prompting investigations by USA Swimming and FINA. Only USA Swimming issued recommendations based on the findings, which will be taken into account by USLA as it undergoes its review.
“The USA Swimming manual for conducting these events has a fairly limited area for safety. It’s more big picture,” Brewster noted. “What we tried to create … were the elements that should be taken into account. Each event has to adapt to the local conditions.”
Industry professionals may submit comments through March 31 at usla.org/swimeventsafety. The USLA Certification Committee will review all comments submitted and develop recommendations in April.
Ratifying any changes to the open water swimming event guidelines will be the main agenda item for the committee, said Tony Pryor, committee chair.
“We’re looking for what the trend is now and what [people] think should happen,” he said. “If we can improve and create something that’s more safety oriented, that’s our whole goal.”