Welcome to Willemstad, Curaçao!

The motto for our competition has always been “swimmers without borders” – and we are delighted to bring our event to the Caribbean this year. Bulado Swim Club is proud to invite you to Willemstad, Curaçao from the 14th-16th of October, 2016 for the 11th year of our unique swimming competition!

Considered one of the best-kept secrets of the Caribbean, the island of Curaçao is not only known for its beautiful beaches and gorgeous natural landscapes. Capital city Willemstad, on the east side of the island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history dating back to the 17th century. During your time off from the pool, you can explore the city’s heritage, do some shopping, hang out at a café or experience Curaçao’s dining scene. Alternatively, you can get in touch with nature on the west side of the island – known for its small fishing villages, secluded beaches and the 1800-hectare Christoffel National Park.

Hosting the EU Swim in Curaçao during October will allow you to take advantage of the lower costs that accompany the off-season. There are non-stop flights from the United States and from the Netherlands in Europe, with connecting flights available to any part of the world, so the island is easily accessible! If you want to combine your holiday with a trip to the United States, Miami is only a three-hour direct flight from Curaçao. Check out the Curaçao Tourism Board website here to plan the perfect holiday!

The recently renovated Asiento facility boasts an 8-lane 25 meter pool equipped with non-turbulent lanelines, a separate smaller pool for warmup purposes and ample spectator seating for family, friends and supporters. We’ve divided the meet into 4 sessions with timed finals only on Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and afternoon and Sunday morning. This will allow you to have a wide range of events to choose from so that you can have ample time for sightseeing in between sessions.

Teams who wish to make their trip to Curaçao into a training camp experience prior to or after the competition are welcome to contact the organizers for arrangements at [email protected].

We are very excited to be working with the Bulado Swim Club for the 2016 edition of this event. More details will be made available soon. Join us on the island this October and enjoy a weekend of fast swimming and fun in paradise!

Paris 2006
Liege 2007
Slupsk 2008
Aarschot 2009
Neuchatel 2010
Miskolc 2011
Tampere 2012
We have been to…

This year, we’re headed to…

  • Willemstad, Curaçao!

Instructional swimming videos, customized workouts, technique tips, swimming reviews, and more!


The Kalev Spa: A Swimmer’s Paradise in the Heart of Tallinn

Julia Galan

Tallinn, as seen from the Kalev Spa

Tallinn, as seen from the Kalev Spa

Just off the shores of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea lies Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. Meandering through the cobble-stoned streets, surrounded by medieval architecture, it is easy to see why the city’s Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But for those visitors who also happen to be swimmers, Tallinn is not simply a place of beauty. Tucked away just off the Old Town is the Kalev Spa, an all-in-one hotel, spa and aquatics complex.

Picture waking up after a refreshing night’s sleep and gazing out of the window at the red-tiled roofs of the city, the tall steeple of Saint Olaf’s Church and the turret towers of the historical Old Town. Stroll over to the 4th floor and indulge in a delicious buffet breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, or cold cuts and fresh vegetables, if you prefer. Like porridge or cold cereal, or maybe just bread with fresh strawberry or black currant jam? On a gluten-free or vegetarian diet? They cater to those needs, too. Sit down and enjoy a view of the aquatics complex with your meal. Yes, the aquatics complex is right in the hotel! Which means that after breakfast, you can change into your suit, grab a robe and towel from your room, and head downstairs for a training session in the beautiful 8-lane, 50 meter pool. Post-swim, you have the entire day to explore Tallinn and its surroundings. If you are in serious training, you’ll visit the fitness center upstairs for some dryland work first. And of course you won’t forget to treat yourself to one or more of the many spa therapy services that the Kalev Spa offers!

Kalev Spa's aquatics complex and water park during the Kalev Open, November 2013

Kalev Spa’s aquatics complex and water park during the Kalev Open, November 2013

I first discovered the Kalev Spa in November 2013, when the hotel and aquatics complex hosted the Kalev Open, the 8th edition of the EU Swim Series. Choosing the Kalev Spa as the 2013 host pool and the Kalevi Ujumiskool – Tallinn’s premier swimming club – as the host club was an easy decision to make. The facilities and the location were clearly excellent, but experiencing the Spa in person was even sweeter – which is why I returned for a second time this September! Staying for the week allowed me to achieve the perfect mix of training and tourism. I got in my swimming workout every morning after breakfast, sharing the lanes with my friends from the Keila Swim Club and the Kalevi Ujumiskool and their team leaders, Toni Meijel and Kristo Krinpus. After this morning ritual, I had the entire rest of the day to spend exploring Tallinn and its surroundings. From the TV tower, to the tiny fishing villages along the coast, to the delights of the Old Town itself, each day was jam-packed with places to see and things to do. When evening drew near, I could return to “home base” at the Spa, and sleep soundly until the routine began again the next morning.

Besides experiencing the Kalev Spa myself, I was curious to learn more about the establishment. So I met with Marina Mättik, the Spa’s sales and marketing manager to discuss the history of the Spa, what it has to offer for guests and its future goals. Below is our conversation.

JG: Marina, tell me about the history of the Kalev Spa. When did it open and how did you manage to get a gorgeous 50 meter facility inside of such a great hotel and spa?

My view from the Restaurant Linda

My view from the Restaurant Linda

MM: The Kalev Spa really first started out exclusively as a swimming pool, which was first designed in the mid-1950s by Uno Tölpus, the top Estonian architect of that time. The pool was ultimately opened in 1964 and was home to several major international competitions from the start. In 2005, the pool needed to undergo major renovations and we took that opportunity to think about ways to innovate and make something new. Ultimately, the goal was to turn the place into a leisure center and hotel, so that guests could take advantage of a variety of different activities and use the hotel as their base point while staying in Tallinn. The result? An entirely new building complex, designed by architect Emil Urbel, with the interior design by Taavi Aunre, consisting of a 100-room hotel, a restaurant (the Linda, featuring buffet and à la carte menus on different floors) , cafes, a beauty, wellness and health centre and a fitness centre. We are now very proud to offer so many services and continue to maintain the pool as one of the main training venues for Estonian national athletes. Our waterpark is one of the largest in northern Estonia, complete with several saunas, hot tubs and water slides in addition to the main pool.

JG: What were some of the challenges that the Kalev Spa faced when it first opened?

MM: Initially we faced a few structural challenges due to the transition from a swimming pool to a pool and a hotel. With perseverance, however, we have updated and resolved all of the initial hiccups and can now focus on developing and growing our hotel. We are very pleased to continually receive more and more guests, and the hotel and water park are really surging in popularity. We have achieved more synergy between all of our different departments and have been able to focus on offering new products and services, the latest being our spa center developments.

JG: In your opinion, what makes the Kalev Spa a really great place to visit and spend some time in?

At Kalev Spa's beauty and wellness centre (Photo courtesy of Kalev Spa)

At Kalev Spa’s beauty and wellness centre (Photo courtesy of Kalev Spa)

MM: I think the Kalev Spa is really unique because of its long swimming tradition and today it has become the largest water park in Tallinn and north Estonia. It has such a great location, right at the edge of the historical Old Town of Tallinn and it offers something for everyone, for people of any age. We have our 50 meter pool and fitness center which attract competitive swimmers and fitness-oriented individuals who want to have an active holiday. Our smaller pools and slides are perfect for kids and families who want to relax. We have a high-quality restaurant overlooking the pool so you don’t even have to step out the door to get delicious Estonian cuisine. And of course, our beauty, wellness and health center offers everything from facials and beauty treatments to massages and body treatments. We like to provide our clients with the best and most exclusive product ranges in the world, such as Guinot, Alessandro, Alfraparf, Kalahari and Germaine de Capuccini.

JG: What are your goals for the future as a hotel?

Tradition meets modernity in front of the Kalev Spa

Tradition meets modernity in front of the Kalev Spa

MM: Our long-term goal is to become the most popular water park for Tallinn residents and the first choice for visitors looking to get a spa holiday or family retreat. We hope to constantly enrich the different possibilities available to the citizens of Tallinn and visitors to the city alike for an active holiday by providing a large variety of services in our spacious and modern spa hotel and water park in the very heart of the city. In order to achieve our strategic goals, we need to offer the highest level of service, constantly fulfilling and even exceeding our clients’ expectations. We try to cultivate a culture of service that is customer-service oriented and always providing clients with positive surprises. We often like to refurbish our public areas, hotel rooms and spa facilities, and introduce new services –like medical and beauty services, catering services, or new personal training and fitness programs. We think we are succeeding in accomplishing our goals, and we hope our guests do, too!

From my conversation with Marina and my experience at the Kalev Spa, I have no doubt that this establishment is more than successful and will only increase in popularity! Check out the hotel for yourself and consider a trip to Tallinn the near future, a magical city of possibilities – and a swimmer’s paradise!

Hyvinkää 2014: A Great Start to the Season!

By Julia Galan

Photo Courtesy of Andrey Kolesnikov

The 2014-2015 swimming season started off with a bang in beautiful Hyvinkää, Finland this year! On the 13th and 14th of September, over 280 swimmers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Russia and the United States met on the pool deck of the Sveitsi swimming pool for the Hyvinkää Open, marking the 9th edition of the EU Swim Series. This year’s competition was the earliest it has ever been, and because of this the atmosphere was truly unique. While the emphasis was still on the swimming itself and swimmers’ performances, the timing of the event – just after summer holidays – allowed for a more relaxing weekend. Everyone – from coaches to spectators to swimmers – could take the time to enjoy themselves, in addition to racing fast. In the world of swimming, this does not happen frequently at competitions, and yet it is vital to the encouragement of swimming as a lifelong sport.

Located just thirty minutes from Helsinki by car, this year’s event was hosted by the Simmis Hyvinkää swimming club, who were also participants during the very first year of the swim series in Paris 2006. Led by meet director Sanna Yritys, our hosts wholeheartedly embraced the spirit of friendship and competition that is unique to the EU Swim Series, with volunteers from Hyvinkää and surrounding cities joining to support the Hyvinkää Open and ensure its success. The organizational competence and welcoming approach of Sanna and her team allowed participants to enjoy a fun and dynamic meet, while the presence of such competent head referees as Anne-Marja Hammar and Raimo Jaakkola ensured that the competition itself was professional and well-run. Speaker Lauri Rautiainen animated the competition in Finnish and English, providing clear announcements that were easily understood by the variety of nationalities present. Music is a very important part of the competition, and DJ Jussi Österman kept the beat going, energizing participants throughout the weekend. Jussi and his wife, Mervi, also ran the electronic timing and results, doing a fantastic job balancing all of the tasks required of them. Each and every one of the volunteers who assisted with the multiple responsibilities associated with an international competition guaranteed an excellent weekend for all involved.

EUSwim3The facilities themselves added to the experience this year. The 25 meter, 6-lane pool was fast and high-quality, allowing swimmers to perform their best, and the size of the pool deck encouraged swimmers to be in closer proximity to each other, leading to a friendly atmosphere and resulting in many new friendships made over the weekend between the teams. A balcony and café overlooking the pool also permitted coaches and spectators to enjoy a coffee while watching the events. The FINIS swim shop, run by Swimera Baltics, provided the latest swim products from this innovative company as well as FINIS prizes for the high-point award winners at the end of the competition.

An added benefit during the Hyvinkää Open was the proximity of the accommodation. Located just 100 meters from the swimming pool, the Hotel Rantasipi Sveitsi welcomed all swimmers, coaches, parents and supporters to their beautiful resort and conference center and allowed them to rest and relax whenever they wished before or after their events.  For those who wanted to take a break from the swimming pool, the surrounding Sveitsi Nature Park, a landscape of forests carved out by an ancient glacier during the Ice Age, provided over 26 kilometers of trails to explore.

As the weekend unfolded, it was a delight to reflect back on over nine years and see how much this competition has grown and developed. On the pool deck in Hyvinkää, it was clear to see how this event encourages the celebration of swimming as more than just a sport, but also as an integral part of many swimmers’ lives. It allows all swimmers to travel to different countries each year, experience new cultures, and represent their own nations, regardless of their age or level. This year, for example, the youngest competitor was six years old and the oldest competitor was 66. Some of the younger swimmers had never traveled abroad, let alone to compete internationally, and the event was a turning point in many of their lives.

EUSwim6Swimming fast and focusing on performances is clearly essential to the sport, but what about allowing swimmers to not only swim fast, but also to travel internationally, to have fun in the process, and share the pool deck with a variety of different levels of swimmers? That variety is what this competition is all about and exposing our younger athletes to the opportunities they can strive for as they progress in their sport, teaching them to love the sport, not to fear it or quit the first moment they get a chance. When younger athletes see, for example, Olympian Martin Liivamagi from the Kalevi Ujumiskool team not only representing his team and cheering on his teammates, but also spending time encouraging and speaking with the younger swimmers at the competition or giving medals, they see a true role model and can learn from his example, simply because they had the possibility to attend this competition. The traditional parade of countries and medal ceremonies are also moments of pride for the participants – carrying their country’s flag and – if they represent the host country – hearing their national anthem being played are particularly meaningful experiences.

This year’s competition in Hyvinkää exuded an air of camaraderie, national pride, competition and friendship and provided all of us with the perfect start to what we hope to be an amazing new swimming season!

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Sanna Yritys, meet director, who was a real pleasure to work with and whose dedication and determination allowed the competition to be the success that it was. Huge thanks also goes to the entire Simmis Hyvinkää club, the head referees Raimo Jaakkola and Anne-Marja Hammar, speaker Lauri Rautiainen, and DJ and electronic timing specialists Jussi and Mervi Österman, and all of the officials, timers, and volunteers. A very special thanks goes to all of the  swimmers, coaches, parents and supporters. Without your spirit and enthusiastic participation, this competition would not be possible!

We are already looking forward to next year, and will bring you updates as to the location as soon as possible. In the meantime, we present you with a photo gallery of over 2000 pictures for you to enjoy! We don’t ask for any compensation for these photos, but if you could give us a like on our Facebook page or consider a donation, it would be the best “thank you” we can receive!!

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The Life of an Open Water Swimming Champion: A Conversation with Joey Pedraza

Julia Galan

Joey_1Yoelvis “Joey” Pedraza is no ordinary open water enthusiast. Born and raised in Cuba, the 26-year old University of Florida graduate has been swimming since the age of two. After emigrating to Florida with his family at the age of 11, Joey continued to take both swimming and studying seriously, and his talents in the water and in the classroom earned him scholarships to high school and then to college. He began to explore open water swimming during high school, and by his junior year he had placed among the top 6 swimmers in the country at the US Open Water National Championships. Although Joey was unable to become part of the US Junior National Team due to his citizenship status at the time, he took to the open water again after graduating from college – this time as an American citizen – earning a spot on the 2013-2014 Open Water National Team and the right to represent the United States at the international level. Most recently, Joey earned bronze at the 2014 Open Water Nationals in California. His next race will be the Trans Tahoe Relay in Lake Tahoe, followed by the World Cup Series in Canada in July.


At the 2012 Flowers International Sea Swim

We were pleased to be able to catch up with Joey and chat about his experiences as a swimmer, and his goals for the future.

JG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

JP: I was born and raised in Cuba. I lived in the city because of the ease of access to education, but I spent most of my time on my grandfather’s farms, and my heart and passion was always in the outdoors and life on the farm. I first started swimming when I was two years old, and began participating in a swimming school near our house when I was four. In 1998, when I was 11 years old, my parents told me we were going to go camping in the middle of the night. Next thing I knew, I was washed up on the shores of South Florida’s Sombrero Beach. I tried to continue swimming for a year after I came from Cuba, but could only do it for a month because my father could not afford the fees. My last day on deck, however, was also the day I met my godmother. She offered to support me during my middle school years so that I could continue pursuing the sport that I loved. I earned scholarships to three different high schools, and chose to attend the Pine Crest School of Fort Lauderdale. From there, I earned a scholarship to the University of Florida.

JG: What was your swimming experience like before you decide to pursue open water races?

Joey_4JP: Before my open water swimming career began, I was a long-distance swimmer, specializing in the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle, as well as the 400 meter freestyle. I always felt that these races were too short for me and as I started to get older, I wanted more and more training over longer distances. During my second year of high school, I started competing in some small, 1-mile open water swims in south Florida. I really enjoyed these races, and the summer before my junior year, I participated in the US Open Water Nationals, and placed among the top 6 in the country. I couldn’t join the US Junior National Team at the time because I wasn’t an American citizen, and only had my green card. I didn’t swim open water again until the beginning of my junior year in college, when I was selected for a USA Swimming camp. After finishing top 10 at the camp, I took another hiatus from open water until I finished college swimming. I then trained hard for 6 months, placed 4th at US Open Water National Championships and, now having my American citizenship, I made the US National Team.

JG: What do you love most about open water swimming?

JP: I have always loved the long distance training, and how unpredictable and competitive open water swimming is.

JG: What have been your main accomplishments so far and what are your current short-term and long-term goals?

JP: My best accomplishments have been placing 4th in the 10K and 2nd in the 5K at US Nationals, and placing 8th at the World Cup. My short term goals are to win the World Cup in July and to find some sponsors who are willing to help fund my travel to future World Cups so that I may gain knowledge and experience alongside world class athletes and become a World Cup champion in the process. My only long term goal is a promise that I made my dad before he passed away, and that is to make the US Olympic Team.

JG: How have your coach, your family, teammates and friends supported you on your journey towards success?

Joey with Azura teammates at the Pompano Mile Swim 2013

Joey with his younger teammates at the Pompano Mile Swim 2013

JP: My coaches and friends have been extremely supportive of me. It has been tough on all of us, and it has been really hard to find others that are willing to help in terms of funding my expenses. My coaches and friends can only do so much for me, and I try not to ask much of them. So we only participate in races close by that we can all afford. In terms of my family, my mother is a single parent and has a tough time sustaining herself, let alone me. I will never ask anything from her, but I just do the best I can in swimming so that she can always be proud of me. It has been hard on her since my dad passed away.

JG: What do you do when you’re not swimming yourself?

JP: When I am not swimming I am just hanging out with my best friends. We usually just go to the beach or find something to do around the area. Sometimes I just stay home and work on my motorcycle, which was a gift from my best friend. He wanted me to be mobile so that I could visit my mom often in West Palm Beach.

JG: What does a typical training day look like for you?

JP: My typical day is a two hour training session in the morning followed by an hour of dry land. Every other day, I’ll also supplement my dry land with a two hour bike ride or a 30-minute run. In the afternoons, I have another 2 hour training session. On days that I do not have running or biking, I give swimming lessons for the team or do camp clinics. That’s pretty much my routine during the week.

JG: Do you have a workout set or a drill that you are willing to share which would benefit open water swimmers?

JP: I do a lot of drills. Most of them are well known in the swimming community. One of my favorites is the catchup drill and the other is high-elbows. I like to do these because is always nice to do something other than just swimming. As for a workout set, I like to do my old college set – it’s 20×400 holding best average time.

JG: What advice would you give to aspiring open water swimmers of all ages and levels?

Joey_2JP: Since I have been through a lot in my life and I have had all the odds against me, all I can say is, never give up until you achieve what you want the most. And you will not fail until the day you stop trying.

JG: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

JP: Many people have been there for me through out my swimming career, and I want to also give back to the sport that has given me so much. So I wanted to share the FINIS code that will give a 10% discount on any purchase made on  the FINIS website. The code is jpedraza14 (be sure to type it in as opposed to copy and paste). The discount code can be used as many times as you like for any purchase you want, such as suits, equipment, gear, or even warm ups. I hope this comes of help to all of your readers!

Thanks so much Joey for your time and your gift! Wish you the best of luck in all of your endeavors!

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