By Steven Munatones, Swimming World open water correspondent
LOS ANGELES, California, December 16. THE sport of open water swimming continues to evolve. Events like the Great Swim series in Great Britain, the Ocean Swim Series throughout New Zealand and the King of the Sea Challenge in Rio de Janeiro are representative of how competitive – and inclusive – the sport is becoming. Elite athletes are able to earn prize money by competing in hotly contested heats while age-group, masters and fitness swimmers of all ages and abilities continue to flock to the shorelines around the world.
Another growing new event is the Axxess DSL Ocean Racing Series held from October to April in South Africa. But it is a three-day weekend of pro races in April that is catching the eye of top open water swimmers. On April 3, the Ocean Racing Series World Championships will be held in Nelson Mandela Bay. The next day, the 7K Nelson Mandela Bay Bell Buoy Challenge will take place and on Sunday, one of the most innovative open water competitions will be held.
The King of the Bay Swim Challenge will feature forty of the world's best male and female swimmers who will compete in five elimination rounds. The slowest four swimmers will be eliminated in each round with the men and women racing in separate heats. The final and fifth heat will feature the remaining four swimmers who will race for prize money. In a special twist to the event, the swimmers will not have much time to rest between heats. As soon as the women finish their first heat, the men will go. Then the women will rush to the starting line after the men are finished to begin their second heat. The men and women will continue to alternate racing until all ten elimination heats are completed. The mano-a-mano competition will be an interesting mix of strategy, endurance and sprinting which each heat between 500 – 750 meters.