Open water swimming, or competition in rivers, lakes, or oceans, is becoming quite a popular form of competition, much like running marathons or cycling centuries. There are over 3,000 sanctioned events all over the world and 158 countries participate.
The Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan is host to a 3.3k cross-lake swim that draws as many as 22,000 swimmers each year. There are different start groups for swimmers of all ages and abilities. The event takes place in August.
In South Africa, you can race across Midmar Dam to compete in the Midmar Mile. Seventeen thousand swimmers, ranging in age from 5 to 83 compete in February of each year. Expect to see some Olympic medalists competing in this event.
If you like bridges, head for Sweden in July to the city of Vansbro. The 3k Vansbrosimningen is a river race that takes you under all six of the bridges in the city. This is the largest open water race in Northern Europe with over 4000 swimmers.
Winds and waves make the Sea of Galilee Swim a challenging event. About 6000 swimmers compete in the 4k race each October. Over 750 support boats accompany the swimmers as this channel swim can get rough at times. This event has been around since 1944, two years before Israel was formed.
If you like rough water and want to stay closer to home, look no further than the La Jolla Rough Water Swim, also known as The Big Wet One. This is a multi-distance race with events of 250 yards, 1 mile, and the 3 mile Gatorman Swim. It starts on the beach in La Jolla Cove, a cold-water high visibility part of the Pacific in Southern California.
And, of course, no place does competition like New York City. Every June, 25 solo swimmers and18 relay teams compete in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a 28.5 mile swim around the island of Manhattan. This event is coordinated by NYC Swim, a group that hosts many other open water events that attract about 10,000 swimmers to NYC.