"As I raced in Barbados there was the usual human enthusiasm along the shoreline and in nearby kayaks, but the added brilliance was the underwater support; turtles, star fish, beautifully bright vertebrates and a couple of unidentifiable folks too! There were several occasions on which I forgot to breathe as I stared downwards in awe. Having turtles in my spectating cheer squadwas a definite high point of the year's race season."
The energy was magic. People had traveled from all over the globe for this festival; Canadian’s escaping the harsh winter, including several Olympians, fellow Brits keen to experience the glorious waters, a Brazilian lady who had come alone, the Irish contingent, identifiable by their beaming smiles…19 nations were represented.
In 2018 Mollie Pearse of the UK ventured to Barbados for the Open Water Festival. After she wrote a detailed account of her trip, excerpts of which have been reposted here with her permission.
The BOWF is 5 days of swimming paradise. There are 3 guided swims, all about 2K and at different locations around the Island. These guided, gentle swims are followed by a weekend of racing; Saturday was 1.5km with a race or fun option and Sunday was an option of a 10K, 5K or 3.3kK race. All swimming took place in the incredibly blue, aquarium-like waters of Barbados. This was the 7th year of the festival and it was no surprise to hear that the participation had grown from 12 people to well over 400 this year.
Swim 1: We arrived at Copacabana beach, Carlisle bay, for our first guided swim. The music was pumping, and the beach area was teeming with swimmers and supporters. The swimmers also showcased an exceptional number of aquatic achievements on their heads, in an impressive rainbow of silicon swim hats…like the adult version of the badges you got as a child. Only instead of a 25m badge, these caps displayed channel crossings, cold water swims in Russia and even Olympic triumphs. It was very impressive and made for a great conversation starter when we were bobbing up and down in the water. Although the achievements held adult status, the buzz and energy held a childlike enthusiasm – it was utterly brilliant.
The first swim route was an ordinary ‘out and back’, but the route is where the ordinary ended. As soon as we stepped in to the tropically warm waters we were in for a treat; the waters were as clear as glass, teeming with sea life that David Attenborough would have been envious of. I was smiling like a small child, so incredibly overcome with joy that I was swimming in such a location! So, we swam, we stopped and chatted, we met some fascinating souls from around the globe and then we swam back to shore.I was once again awestruck by the natural beauty. Every breath I took to my left gave me a glimpse of the impressive sun that was setting in a phenomenal fashion on the horizon. I was in my happy place.
Swim two started at Port St Charles Yacht Club. The waters were lovely, less activity than Carlisle bay, but the boat life alone gave more than enough to look at!
The third guided swim was a new adventure. Although Mother Nature was having a moody afternoon, the scenes below the water line remained stunning with Turtles cruising along the ocean bed without a moment’s bother for the 200 swimmers above them. Having spent the previous evening at a luxurious yacht club, day 3 saw our post swim refuel at a street market. If you are looking for energy on a Friday night in Barbados, head to Oistins, the small town came alive with cracking music, multiple BBQs and hordes of people. We all settled into plastic tables and chairs, fortuitously for us we were under a marquee, which proved invaluable when the heavens opened for a torrential storm. The hordes squeezed themselves under the 2 inches of marquee, similar to the Victoria Line at rush hour! A downpour is no issue for a group of swimmers though, within moments the rain had stopped, and everyone whipped out their towels to dry their chairs. Problem solved.
The week was to conclude with two races; 1.5km on Saturday and 5km on Sunday.
Race 1: Once I finally got going and into my rhythm it was gorgeous. I had the time to look down and admire the sea life. The wrecks and small reefs were teeming with fish, it was like they’d all got up for their Saturday morning chores, going about their duties with a business-like fashion. I chuckled to myself and simultaneously swallowed a mouthful of sea water…keep your mouth closed, Pearse!
Race 2: 5K. The swim was incredible, I felt strong and I had my own turtle support crew. They were just chilling, easy like Sunday morning as I powered my way around the three laps. On lap two I spied a menacing cloud on the horizon, which by lap three was torrential rain. I struggled to confirm whether it was actually raining until the drops were bouncing down around me and off of my face. It was unique swimming mid storm… luckily there was no lightning, just waves! I came out of the swim thrilled with my time and I had come in second in my age category. Not bad for a holiday. It was such a brilliant week.
Every trip I go on, I realize something about myself. Either a new revelation or just confirmation. In this case it was unwavering confirmation that the ocean and beautiful sunsets bring me incredible amounts of happiness. It is nothing flashy, mother nature just has the ability to reset my busy mind and recharge me in a very short space of time. I must work on the move to the seaside!
Happiness is as simple as sunsets and swimming. Who fancies BOWF in 2019??
Enter the Barbados Open Water Festival here: Enter Now
Watch a Festival video: 2018 Video
Read Mollie Pearse's story in its entirety here: Click Here