New Horizons! – Open Water Interview with master swimmer and trainer Alessandro Pilati
Q: Tell us about your swimming experience prior to open water…
A: I started swimming when I was six years old and started playing water polo while I was at middle school. I continued to play until I finished university, playing in league B throughout the 1990s. I also took part in several swim competitions when my club asked me to, but I was not that successful, as I never really enjoyed swimming up and down in a pool, trying to beat the clock. I continued to swim and play water polo for an entire season, because I thought maybe I was wrong about pool swimming, but in the end I realised I was right, and that it just wasn’t for me.
Q: How did you discover open water swimming?
A: I discovered open water swimming thanks to two old friends who took me sea swimming with them, just around the time that I had begun swimming at Master level and was looking for something to keep me enthusiastic about it: I had moved to a new town, where there was no water polo and no one was interested in it. I did not like racing in a pool, but I wanted to swim and I wanted it to have a purpose. I had so much fun that first time, and I still get as excited as a child at the very thought of open water swimming.
Q: What made you start?
A: My love of nature and open spaces, the differences between one swim to another and the fact that it is never boring. These are the objective aspects which attracted me to it, which I also rediscovered after I did some serious mountain biking. There are also several subjective aspects which lead me to swim in open water, first and foremost the feeling of total and absolute freedom.
Q: What are the first steps required when approaching open water?
Knowing how to swim is undoubtedly the first basic step, and then training regularly to create the right conditions for swimming without having to stop after a few strokes: there are no pool edges or lanes in the open water where you are able to stop, rest and catch your breath!
A: What advice would you give to a beginner?
Contact someone with experience, do not improvise, swim in safe areas and always put safety first. Open water should never be underestimated. I also recommend focusing on one thing at a time and progressing by degrees, an aspect which many athletes ignore.
Q: What three words would you choose to describe open water swimming?
A: Nature, because you are literally immersed in it when you swim in open water, it envelops and embraces you and makes you feel as one with it and with yourself.
Freedom, because in the open water you are free of restrictions and have total freedom of movement.
Journey, because every time you go swimming in open water, you embark on a short but incredible journey.
Q: What is the most significant experience you have had in open water swimming?
A: For me, swimming in open water is the experience in itself, because every time I come out of the water after a swim surrounded by nature, I feel complete. However, if I had to choose one specific experience, it would be my very first swim!
Hello, my name is Alessandro Pilati, I was born in 1972 in Bologna and I love swimming. I began swimming with the Rari Nantes Bologna club as a child and I joined the President Bologna association in 1990, where I mainly played water polo in leagues B and C. I stopped competitive swimming in the mid-90s and started master swimming, where I became enthusiastic about long-distance swimming and extended my sporting experience to encompass other sports, such Mountain Bike Triathlons and cross-country Mountain Biking. I returned to swimming in 2000 and learned to love open water swimming. particularly in the sea. I have been collaborating with several organisers since 2009 and started an open water swimming fanzine. I also represent a swimming club which collaborates with other clubs, I train and I enjoy helping other swimmers train and specialise in open water swimming. Why do I enjoy open water swimming? Aside from my close bond with water, swimming in open spaces gives me a sense of freedom which a pool never can.