Can Jellyfish Hear You Scream?

If you are learning to swim freestyle you will be coming to terms with having your face down in the water, finding air to breathe and often doing that whilst being out of your depth. Well done to you, that's not easy at all!

When you're going through these challenges it is important to keep your morale high and not get down when it feels really hard. It can and will get easier with perseverance and by working on the right things in your stroke technique. e.g.

Learning freestyle is often a challenge in overcoming anxiety and one thing to realise is that it never goes completely, as your confidence grows it will get easier but nearly every swimmer (even elite swimmers) have some level of anxiety in the water - even if they don't openly admit it. So don't feel bad about that!

To back up that point, here's a funny extract from Coach Annie's journal from her recent trip from the UK to sunny Perth. Annie's an experienced open water swimmer but even she had a little setback she needed to overcome during a training swim:

That morning I accepted the gracious offer of a swim in the Swan River's Freshwater Bay with Swim Smooth's Adam Young. It was a crisp sunny Sunday morning and the blue shark-free waters shimmered in the early morning sunlight.

We met Paul who was half way through his 20km swim building up to his Manhattan Island win a few weeks later. He and the rest of the marathon swimmer squad were putting in regular 10-30km swims in the river before heading over to New York:

Feeding from a pole is a skill marathon swimmers need to develop.

Paul started on his second 10km lap (!) and then Adam jumped in the water and headed out after Paul shouting back "There might be a few jellyfish but they don't sting!". He must be joking right, we're in a RIVER, does he think I'm that easily fooled? Please no jellyfish, I don't do jellyfish.

So he swims off into the distance and I get stuck into thinking "please if there are any jellyfish, just don't come near me" coupled with "you can do this, just don't freak out now!".

OMG, it turns out Matilda Bay is actually like a Japanese Jellyfish soup:

(Adam: It's bad but not quite that bad!!)

Every 5 seconds the jellies were slithering over my wetsuit past my body, touching the skin on my feet and neck. Hold it together - hold it together! I did pretty well for about 30 minutes until I head-butted straight into one which then slid down my face:

The guys tell me that if you listen carefully you can still hear that scream echoing around Freshwater Bay! Although I didn't know it at the time it caused some alarm to the good people of Perth having a peaceful breakfast on their verandas overlooking the river...

Annie safely back in the pool and
no worse for wear.
Our wetsuit free marathon swimming group (think big burly bronzed manly men) had just finished their own long swim and also heard the scream. They rushed to locate the source and help this damsel in distress!

Frankly I wouldn't have minded being rescued at this point (especially by big burly bronzed men...) but they were nearly 1km away down the river - I guess I do scream loud! - and I was only 100m from the shore. So I managed to do a sort of backwards breast stroke keeping my head as far out of the water as possible until I could wade onto the safety of dry land and walk back tail between my legs.

The marathon swimmers rushed up and asked if I knew who had screamed. As they were about to dive in and conduct a search and rescue operation I had to swallow my pride and sheepishly admit it was me...

I felt pretty embarrassed for a few hours afterwards until I realised that actually, I was taking on my fears - swimming with thousands of jellyfish - and doing a pretty good job of it for quite a time. That was really hard and swimming anywhere else now feels easy in comparison! Onwards and upwards!


Like Annie, give yourself a little credit for taking things on and pushing your limits, a few setbacks along the way are inevitable but try not to get down about them. The satisfaction you gain from overcoming them will be all the greater for it.

Our best advice is to push yourself a little further every session, try not to get in a comfort zone where you just do what you know you can do and nothing more. Move things forwards a little every time you swim and your confidence will grow and those fears gradually subside. However, you'll be glad to hear that swimming with jellyfish is entirely optional!

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

What a lovely story. I really enjoyed the 'blog'. Thanks Annie

Maryvonne said...

Do you have Tips to avoid burns?
I am allergic to some fragances (limonene, citrolenol, geraniol..) and have already experienced jellyfish in the mediterranean (specialy During Cadaques Marnaton) , and during my youth in the gulf of Mexico. I didn't scream but was very worried about how to avoid a burn or allergic reaction. I had big googles and the wet suit...I didn't find repelents I can use (hypoallergenic) . All I could do is make big "splashing" in front of me to push the jellies... One stuck to my face, but it was not a bad one....

Anonymous said...

Just returned from a brilliant holiday in Lisbon, Portugal. Went swimming at Cascai just west of Lisbon where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic, beautiful calm water. Came face to crown with a north atlantic jellyfish about half a metre diameter swimming straight at me. I therefore wish to patent new type of swimming stroke which combines every type of stroke you can think of deployed backwards. Decided to retire to the beach bar after that.

Ankush Deshmukh said...

I learnt how to swim at a fairly old age (by swimming standards) of 25. I swim at the local Olympic size pool and I've been a regular for 5months now. It has been quite a journey for me from being a novice afraid of 3ft deep water to teaching swimmers the butterfly stroke and the dolphin kick. However, recently while doing the breaststroke I ended up gulping a lot of water at the deep end of the pool and embarrassingly had to be rescued by the lifeguard which was shocking for him too. Is it normal for swimmers to be rescued like this or for swimmers to 'almost drown' once in a blue moon?

Anonymous said...

Thanks I enjoyed this too ... but be cautious in believing that any river in Australia is shark free. Bull sharks are nearly always present in the Swan river and have been attacking people there for a long time ( Very rare of course and you are probably more likely to be struck by lightning!

Adam Young said...

Hi Maryvonne, some people recommend using vinegar or even urine to help reduce the reaction but these are controversial and the modern consensus is it can make things worse if there's any remaining stinging tentacles attached to you. The main thing is to make sure that any tentacles are removed using tweezers and seek proper medical attention if it's bad.

Hi Ankush, wow, that doesn't sound like much fun. Of course, anyone can have a little moment like that from time to time and I can remember when I was developing my swimming one or two moments like that (fortunately i didn't actually have to be rescued but it was close!). Try and put it out of your mind and keep pushing forwards - sounds like you're doing great!

Anonymous, quite right but for Annie ignorance was bliss!


Ankush Deshmukh said...

Thanks Adam!! :)

Mike Kay said...

that's a great story for demonstrating how comfort in the water is an element of swim technique. Annie, was there a side of you that admired the beauty of it all, along with the fright?

This reminds me of a casual swim I did with friends I visited in La Jolla, California. I was all psyched up for a swim in the bay waters on a permanent course for open water swimmers, when someone said how they were hoping to see sharks. They assured me that they were harmless leopard sharks, but that is not a word I want to hear when entering the water. After a tense beginning to the swim for me, sure enough there were leopard sharks. But I soon observed how beautiful and docile they were and it added to the swim.

I still can get spooked at times in the water, and have yet to have jellyfish problems. Learning to be comfortable in the water in various conditions, and swimming with companions are essential.

Cyndy@swimsmooth said...

Hi Mike,

What a great comment! I did admire the beauty of it, but also remind myself that jellyfish were there first(!) and I am a guest in their natural habitat. I too had a tiger shark experience whilst snorkelling once. We are programmed to be fearful of such things unfortunately.

It is wonderful how both mammal and fish can coexist, such as the beauty and serenity of diving etc. I feel honoured to be able to experience that. Even just swimming in a pool I often lose myself, I'm so relaxed it's like I'm meditating. I hope your swimming is going well!

Subscribe to Feel For The Water
And receive the amazing Mr Smooth animation as your optional free gift.
Find out more: here

* required
I consent to receiving tips to improve my swimming and occasional information about our products and services from Swim Smooth. You can unsubscribe at any time. See our Privacy Policy
Powered by Blogger.


Blog Archive

Recent Posts