Total Immersion Open Water Swim Camp Turkey (& review)

12138440_942676365799401_866156229080732131_oTurkey is far away. Really far away. It isn’t just geography, it’s transit. I left the house at 5am and it was almost 2am the next day. I had a 2 hour drive to the airport, 2 delayed airplane rides, a car transfer to a hotel and I wasn’t even there yet. In the morning, I still had a three hour drive to Kaş, the town where my Total Immersion Open Water Swim Camp was being held. I was exhausted, in a strange new county and, my math may have been a bit dodgy at 2am, but it was all adding up to crazy.

I awoke to prayers blasting from the loud speaker of the mosque nearby. Blurry-eyed and unsure of what I had got myself into, I climbed into the transfer. As the surrounding chaotic traffic slowly disappeared the farther we drove from Antalya, my apprehension and stress faded with them. By the time we finally turned off the winding coastal highway into the small town of Kaş, the view made me instantly start to recalculate. I threw my bags into my room at the hotel, jumped into a bikini and within the hour I was wading into the salty teal of the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe, just maybe, this was a good idea.

School started the next day. The camp had attracted Ukrainians, Russians and some local Turks to make up a group of 8 swimmers and 2 companions. Together we all walked down to the beach on the peninsula. We split into smaller groups between the two coaches, Mat and Baha, and spent the morning working on core activation and the afternoon on breathing technique. In my previous TI camp experiences, lessons often happened in the pool but in the sea we had the benefit of space. We could all practice uninterrupted by walls which made it easier to figure out and settle into new focal points.Kas 6-10 Oct (35)

DCIM100GOPROLearning in mother nature had it’s benefits all week, especially the second day at Limanağzı Beach. We took a short boat taxi down the coast and arrived at a small rocky beach. So far, along with small fish, I had seen a stingray and tiny squid but, when I got into the water that morning I had no idea I was about to see the one thing I had hoped to see on my trip. “Sea turtles!” Mat yelled from the water. I swam over and there they were: three of them munching on seaweed. I was so excited I felt (and probably looked) like a six year old on Christmas morning as I floated on the surface. We spent the rest of the day swimming above them making Limanağzı Beach the best classroom in the world. Just as we were finishing for the day after a 2km distance swim, I stopped to watch a turtle swim up for air. Magically, he swam along in front of me and I could hardly believe my eyes.12015084_939839452749759_8964075529182612350_o

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Photos both courtesy Mustafa Karaaslan.

Our classroom on the second last day of camp was a boat. In the morning, we left Kaş harbour and spent the rest of the day on a private boat touring the surrounding area. We stopped in three different places to swim, each with an equally indulgent point of interest. In crystal clear water ranging in colour from aquamarine to deep azure blue, we swam over a deep crevasse with divers below, over a sunken sea plane, and in a beautiful cove. In between swim practices, we lounged in the sun on the deck of the boat, spotted sea turtles, enjoyed a fresh lunch on-board, and talked about the open water swimming race we were all participating in the next morning.IMG_1289

DCIM100GOPROThe pinnacle challenge of the week was the Kaş 361 swim race on the last day of camp. Our last classroom extended from the Kas harbour all the way back to Limanağzı Beach and, luckily, conditions were perfectly calm water under clear sunny skies. We had a choice of 1, 3 or 6km, I chose the six and it was a swim I will never forget. Read about my race here…

After 4 days and 5 nights, I could hardly tear myself away from Turkey. A quick calculation revealed I was leaving loaded with new skills, new memories and new friends. My math may still have been dodgy but, in the end, I definitely wasn’t crazy. My week swimming in Turkey was heaven.

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Kas TI OWC October 2015. Photo courtesy Mustafa Karaaslan.

For those considering a TI Camp in Turkey with Mediterra, or in general, here are a few things I would want someone to tell me about…

Travel

Turkey is far away. Even when you get to Turkey, the Total Immersion camps are a few hours from the airport (either Antalya or Dalaman). Although the logistics can be stressful, the location of Kaş is worth the trip alone. Add in expert coaching and you’ll be ready to make the trip again.

Hotel and Meals

The hotel was very basic and in an older building but it was acceptably clean, especially since we were really only there to sleep to eat breakfast. The hotel breakfast was simple but adequate. The staff were very friendly. There were plenty of cafes nearby wherever we were during the day for lunch or snacks. Evening meals were spent in local restaurants in the heart of Kaş. As a vegan, there were limited options at restaurants but everyone was very accommodating. I was glad I came prepared with snacks from home and I also did some basic groceries. The fruit and vegetables were cheap, fresh and delicious.

Training

Basically, there were two lessons a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. When we were at a single location there was a long break for a cafe (or packed) lunch. Typically, a drill or focal point was introduced and then everyone would swim off to apply it. The day usually ended with a distance swim between 1-2km.

Temperature

Anyone who has done TI training knows about being cold. It’s a hard to avoid when you’re often moving slower than usual working on isolated movements or watching demonstrations. At the beginning of October, the water in Kaş was warm, as was the air temperature, and we had great sunny weather but I was still a bit cold (to be fair I can get cold in a pool). Everyone was comfortable in just a swimsuit but I chose a long sleeve suit for some extra warmth. I did wear a wetsuit for one session but, again, everyone else was in just a swimsuit. During lessons, both coaches planned for short warm-up breaks on the beach where I found a quick change into a dry swimsuit also helped.

Coaching

Different swimmers respond to different coaches but TI Master Coach Mat Hudson seemed to be a good balance for different types of learners. He is thoughtful and creative with his instructions and feedback, especially when you get stuck on something. His experience allows him to pick up on tiny details and he is genuinely passionate about swimming and making students better swimmers. The coach to student ratio seemed perfect and I received a lot of personal attention.

Learning

When I was a first time TI student I didn’t know what to expect and found the learning process was a bit different. Since TI is partially subjective and isn’t easy to learn quickly (at least for me), I had to figure out the best way to learn TI. Here is the approach that works for me…

I have found it hard to see and feel real improvement in the short space of TI camps so I approach camp as a week to gain knowledge. Instead of worrying about making immediate improvement, I try to harvest all I can from coaches so when I return home I have enough to keep me busy. It means during camp I have to set aside things I have yet to master. I keep short daily notes and ensure when I leave I have a clear idea of what and how to train when I get home. All this hinges on a two-way communication between the coach and myself so there is an ongoing dialogue throughout the course. In any case, leading your own learning will mean a more satisfactory camp experience and yield more benefit in the long term.

Special thanks to Mustafa Karaslaan for photos. 

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