The Global Swim Series: The Next Phase of Open Water Swimming

Global Swim Series
Photo Courtesy: Global Swim Series

By Caitlin Daday, Swimming World College Intern

It’s the biggest thing you’ve never heard of.

With over 85 races in 27 different countries and around 40,000 total competitors, the Global Swim Series is making waves across the international open water community. For the last year and a half, the series has worked to grow the sport of open water by connecting races all over the world.

“Is our goal to make lots of money, is it to grow rich and famous, or is it to promote open water swimming?” Robert Kent, founder of the Global Swim Series, says. “Growing open water was our premise right from the start.”

Founded in 2014, the Global Swim Series evolved out of a Canadian series Kent developed. About 11 years ago, when Kent was training to swim the English Channel, he began training in Lake Ontario, founding a team there called the Lake Ontario Swim Team (LOST). Soon enough, LOST began to host races, which then spread across Canada. Seeing the success of that series, Kent decided to take it a step further and began to promote the sport worldwide.


Photo Courtesy: Global Swim Series

Attractive international destinations, such as Barbados, certainly help draw interest to the series. Other races, such The Liffey Swim in Dublin, which has run annually for the last 97 years, provide an entirely new swimming experience for most as competitors swim through the streets of a historic city and become part of a long-lasting tradition.

The multitude of locations adds a significant amount of variety to the traditionally unvarying sport of swimming, Kent says. The idea behind the series is that each race is meant to be different and provide competitors the option to choose races that are best for them. For example, if you prefer to race in warm water, there are plenty of options, but there are also options if you prefer the cold. Further, the races are all different lengths, so really anyone can find one that is right for them. The variety serves to make the sport more enjoyable and to encourage athletes to keep coming back.


Photo Courtesy: Global Swim Series

Across the races, a points system generate each competitor’s global ranking. Athletes can receive up to 100 points for each race, and everybody gets at least 50 points just for racing. The number of extra points you earn is based on your position in the pack, but even if you get last you still earn something. The ranking system serves as an incentive for people to do more races and continue to improve their abilities.

Additionally, the Global Swim Series hosts four regional championships (North America, South America, Europe, and Pacific) and one global championship. This year is the first year for the championship races, so there is no qualifying procedure–all you have to do is sign up and show up. The Global Championship’s date is still not finalized but will likely be held in April in Cancun, Mexico.

The Global Swim Series hopes to attract all types of athletes, Kent says. From the weekend warrior, to the former college athlete, to the triathlete, the series is open to anyone seeking to test their open water swimming abilities. While the biggest demographic is 35-55 years old, there are no restrictions. In Barbados this past November, 2012 Olympian Alex Meyer attended, even giving a clinic the day before the competition.


Photo Courtesy: Global Swim Series

Over the last year and a half, the series has seen a 100% growth in all its races, Kent says. While some of the races have existed long before the series, many new races are starting specifically to join it.

“It’s cool to see it all work,” Kent says. “There is actually a lot of growth. It shows you too there is an appetite for it, since no one else is doing it.”

Kent sees open water’s evolution as similar to triathlon’s, but it is just about 10 years behind. The sport already exists, so at this point it is just about getting it all together. Through the Global Swim Series, Kent hopes to bring open water to the same level and popularity as triathlons.

“It’s neat when everyone else finally gets it,” he says. His biggest goal is to use the series to help grow the sport of open water swimming. With 85 races and more on the way, the Global Swim Series is bound to make change in the open water community in the coming years.

For more information on the Global Swim Series, check out