The Future of Swimming

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Over the coming years, swimming can change in many ways. Short term changes are clearer but thinking further ahead is mainly speculation. It seems certain that technology is going to play a big part in the evolution of swimming. Longer-term there may be new types of swimming competitions and, as sea levels rise, the future may need swimming more than ever.

Short term future of swimming (next 5 years)

Over the next 5 years, the future of swimming seems reasonably clear. As with every other area of our lives, technology will play an increasingly large role. The wearable technology and advanced materials which have revolutionized swimming in recent years is going to reach new heights. Advanced goggles could allow VR swimming experiences which put you in the middle of coral reefs or Olympic swimming competitions, with the technology available today that has yet to be put to that use. These advanced technologies would start turning up at all our favorite swimwear retailers and become a common sight at the pool.

In regards to swimmers ourselves, some have speculated on the effects of advances in sports and nutrition science will have, coming to the inevitable conclusion that records will be shattered multiple times in the near future. The current longest swim is nearly 140 miles (225 kilometers), so it’s not crazy to imagine someone swimming 200 miles soon. Meanwhile, the record for lengths swam of the English Channel was recently broken and set at 4-times by Sarah Taylor, which may be overtaken by adventurous swimmers such as Ross Edgley, the first person to swim around Great Britain.

Mid-term future of swimming (next 50 years)

Thinking further ahead, over the next 50 years, swimming will advance to less predictable heights. The evolution of waterproof materials will allow currently land-based technologies to enter our pools and oceans, creating exciting changes in the world of swimming. Whether this means ultra-light swimsuits that are painted on, or swimming/dive watches with increased functions, they will enhance our swimming capabilities. And just as current tech swimsuits make swimmers faster, we may see more advanced versions that actively boost propulsion through kinetic transference or other exciting emerging technologies.

Adam Peaty, the famous professional swimmer with gold medals galore and a long list of world records, weighed in on the future of professional swimming in a recent interview with Swimming World Magazine, saying “When you go in year to year with the same format and the same race model, it’s just boring. There need to be more events, more adrenaline, just bigger events. There needs to be more of everything,” Peaty said. “I don’t want to be sitting here in eight years’ time doing exactly the same thing I’m doing now. I believe the sport becomes stagnant after a while.” How can competitive swimming innovative to stay interesting? The latest sport to evolve was cricket, which has taken the form of T10 to regain interest after longwinded boredom became synonymous with the sport. T10 adds fireworks, performers, dance routines and celebrity auctions to the game, and the additions of similar gimmicks could easily liven up competitive swimming for spectating family, friends, and fans.

Long term future of swimming (beyond 50 years)

In the long term, beyond 50 years, anything could happen to swimming. However, the most interesting fact is that swimming will become more important because sea levels are constantly rising. You can see the change in sea level between 1870 and 2013 in this graph:

Image courtesy of NASA, see NASA’s Media Usage Guidelines

At a certain point, maybe swimming will become more common than walking, and with the increased focus on swimming in society, we can imagine evolutionary changes similar to those displayed by the people of the Bajau tribe, who are often referred to as “sea nomads”, because they spend most of their lives swimming in the oceans. They are expert swimmers who often learn to swim before they can walk, and as such, they have developed larger spleens than other peoples over the centuries, which gives them more red blood cells, which allows them to stay underwater longer. In this speculative swimming future, floating or underwater cities may become common, changing the way we live our lives completely. Time to brush up on your breaststroke.

Have a great day,

Hannah Parkes

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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