Life in the Slow Lane: Riviera Nayarit 9th Annual Open Water Swimming Tournament

The Riviera Nayarit Open Water Swimming Tournament is celebrating its ninth year in La Cruz. This year’s race will take place on Saturday, April 6. If you’re not planning to participate as a swimmer, the long and attractive list of alternative activities calls on everyone to at least attend the festivities as an observer.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Begona Malo, the Communication Coordinator for the event. As I am not familiar with the concept of long distance competitive swimming in open water, Begona explained some background to the sport and shared details about this weekend’s events. Belin Villasante is the lead organizer. Belin is a professional swimmer from Guadalajara who now calls Riviera Nayarit home. Nine years ago she spotted the beautiful beach in La Cruz and decided this would be a wonderful place to hold an open water tournament.

Open Water is a certain discipline of swimming, with necessary training akin to preparing for the section of a triathlon that requires long distance aquatics. is a sponsor. They certify and support 150+ open water tournaments that take place in more than thirty-four countries, with a combined total of 100 000 registered swimmers. Doing laps in a pool with specific lanes is very different from partaking in an open water swim. Nature’s elements play a role in the athlete’s performance, ie: waves, wind, sun, and “sighting”, (requires the swimmer to continually look ahead to the next marker buoy to stay on course).

Begona describes an open water swim, “The sea, it changes a lot because you don’t know the wind, sun, you can’t see the clear circuit”.

Organizers of swim meets put out a “call”, which describes all technical aspects of the race; date, start time, rules, security inside and outside the circuit, safe guards, and prizes. The final date to register is Thursday, April 4, with a fee of 900 pesos. As a contestant you will receive your swim kit, which includes a T-shirt, swim cap and mesh bag, as well as a participation medal.

In the early years, the swimmers totaled around two hundred. The participants numbers have now grown to eight hundred, and that makes for a large party when you add event organizers/volunteers/food booths/music providers, along with each swimmer’s supporters; numerous family and friends. Imagine hundreds of people entering the water to embark on their personal swimming journey. Contestants from the tender age of seven swim .5 km, or 1.25 km, or 5 km.

Begona touched on the day’s activities, “We want to improve and create an integral experience. The swimmers can swim and enjoy the organization, and the companions can enjoy a day on the beach with food, music and entertainment. We teach consciousness and respect for the beach, with events for the kids, lessons in recycling, and how to take care of the environment”.

One of the things I love most about Vallarta-Riviera Nayarit is how the stresses of the influx of annual visitors is managed in relation to the environment, with a large number of people who sincerely want to keep it naturally beautiful. Bahía Unida, a sponsor of this event, is a forerunner in monitoring Bahía de Banderas tourism activities, ensuring the environment takes first place in responsible travel, while still delivering world-class tourism.

I’ll be there Saturday to rejoice in the successes of the swimmers while celebrating the conservation of our little piece of paradise.

See you there!