TRAVERSE CITY — Life without lanes can be "¦ exciting.
Open-water swimmers of all ages can pit their skills against the elements Saturday at the Slay The Bay Breakers Open Water Swim 2012.
Sponsored by the Traverse City Breakers Swim Club, the event features 1- and 2-mile challenges for swimmers ages 13 and older as well as beach sprints for swimmers ages 12 and younger.
Held at Bryant Park, the event is also a fundraiser and training opportunity for the Traverse City Breakers team.
"There are a lot of new meets and people were saying, 'Why don't we do an open-water event?'" said Enid Hagerty, vice president of the Breakers.
Traverse City swimmer Cari Noga quickly signed up for the public event.
The veteran cyclist first swam in an open-water event during a 2002 triathlon based at East Bay Park. She began swimming for exercise three years later and now logs a half-mile of laps two or three times a week at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center pool.
Swimming outdoors introduces some psychological barriers that many swimmers, including Noga, must overcome: battling the waves and elements while staying on course and not being able to see the bottom.
"I like the experience of being in open water, where anything can happen," said Noga, who completed open water swims in 2007 and 2011, the latter as part of a relay team for the swim leg of a triathlon.
"It could be choppy, chilly, glassy, warm, current with you or against you," she added, noting the approach is to "just keep swimming." "I remember during the tri-swim last year I got a couple big mouthfuls of water in the first 200 yards or so and I had to pause a few minutes, swim breast strokes to catch my breath. Life is like that."
Keith Conway of Traverse City loves the adventure of outdoor swims. He began swimming outdoors to improve his overall triathlon skills and grew to love it. The Slay the Bay event will be Conway's first open water swim that is not part of a triathlon.
"The conditions in the pool are always the same," said Conway. "Outdoors in the water you don't know what you are going to get."
Slay the Bay revives an open water swim that the Breakers used to host annually, a certified race that used to draw swimmers and teams from around the state.
"We did not take that route but I hope that next year we'll certify and make it a bigger event," Hagerty said.
Breakers team members will also be participating in Slay the Bay, either the distance or sprint events depending on their age. Team head coach Jason Moore said that the open water experience can help round out their training and build confidence for distance swimming.
"Some kids have a really good experience and enjoy it, others are a little out of their comfort zone," he said. "It's good to challenge them."
The Traverse City Breakers Swim Club is also holding tryouts for swimmers to fill fall openings on their roster. Swimmers ages 5-18 can come to the Easling Pool at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center between 6-7 p.m. this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for an evaluation. No reservation needed. Swimmers who make the team will be placed in one of eight levels.