On Reading Manuals and Guides




I just read Open Water Swimming Manual: An Expert’s Survival Guide for Triathletes and Open Water Swimmers by Lynne Cox, author of the wonderful books Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson, and long-distance swimmer extraordinaire.

I picked it up because I loved her other books but also because I love reading guides and manuals.

I’m not planning on swimming long-distance in the ocean in the near future. In fact, I rarely get the chance to practice my strokes in a pool and my once-a-year excursion to the beach has me mainly bobbing up and down in the water avoiding the next wave with a silly grin on my face rather than actually swimming.





But I loved reading this book.

One of the reasons is because I like reading lists of rules and guidelines.  For example, she has a section on riptides (side-note: it almost reads like general advice for dealing with life’s troubles).


“Caught in a Rip:


— Remain calm. You will not be pulled under the surface of the water.

— Swim parallel to the shore only to escape the current. As soon as you are out of the current, only then swim toward the beach. Do not swim directly against the current. It will be too strong for you.

— Another option is to float. Eventually, you will reach the end of the current. Then either:

— Swim parallel to the shore to get out of the path of the rip current and, once you do so, only then swim toward the beach; or:

— Draw attention to yourself by waving your arms and yelling for help (which you can do because you are not swimming alone…. right?).”


Most of all, I love reading equipment lists. What kind of swimsuit is necessary? What’s the best ointment to prevent chaffing? A good meal for ultra-long swims? (She likes oatmeal raisin cookies -they float- and warm apple juice, although she writes of a man who pulled a slice of pizza out of his wetsuit much to the surprise – and delight – of his swimming companion).

I’ve always loved reading lists of what one needs before a journey or adventure. Anytime I’ve been part of an organized camping or traveling excursion, I eagerly anticipate the ‘list of things to bring’ that will arrive by mail.


It’s not that I follow these lists per se, but I suppose it combines two aspects of my personality: my love of reading and my love of organization.

And, now I’ve learned, when you enter waters populated with stingray, drag your feet so that if there’s one hidden there, you’ll bump into it and it will swim off rather than leaving a painful stinger in your foot.


Good to know.





This post is dedicated to SteJ