The difference between swimming laps in a pool or playing in the waves at the beach and open water swimming is the same as eating canned asparagus and picking it at the farm. As John Walker writes, "Open water swimming is to pool swimming as trail running is to track running." The experiences are totally different even though the strokes are basically the same. Most references from Yahoo and Google are about open water, competitive swimming. The most popular recently is the triathalon. Otherwise the articles tend to be about the history of open water competitions such as swimming the English Channel. Our interest is about open water, distance swimming for fun, therapy, challenge, beauty and meditation. That may not equal competitive sports for some but it does count in the years you have to live and the pleasure of living them..
There are a few interesting links to sites and blogs about open water swimming. There are many more but they tend to concentrate on training and strategies for triathalons and ocean competitions.
There is a guide to swim tours and events at Ocen Swims
A U.K. blog shows an expressive love of the sport at:Wild Swimmer.
About.com even has a site for swimming but they have a site about most everything. See:
Open water swimming is not to be taken lightly nor to be entered into without practice and training. It is one thing to be no more that 4 lanes (an olympic lane is about a meter wide) from the side of a pool and another to be half a mile from shore in some swells. The open water ( I don't echo the term "ocean swimmer" as we swim and have swum in lakes, ponds, a Yucatan cenote (86 meters deep) and, mostly, in the fresh water lagoon in front of our house. It is our favorite spot since it has a cenote in the lagoon about 1/2 mile in diameter and is 60 or more meters deep). Sadly it has changed in the past two years from relatively quiet to buzzing with motor craft, jetskis, pontoon tour boats and lines of cruise ship tourists in small, high-powered speedboats.