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Ocean swimming was never something I had considered despite having swum competitively in the fourth grade and during my senior year as team captain for our high school swim team.

Truth be told, I never really enjoyed competitive swimming.

As a fourth grader, I joined the YMCA swim team thinking it was some after-school program devoid of all the basketball, football, and other team sports in which I possesed neither the interest nor the ability. Understandably, after a year of intense training for meets which I really preferred not to participate in the first place, I chose not to continue after my first season.

Growing up like many other island kids and progressing from bodyboarding and bodysurfing to surfing made me quite proficient at swimming and it was a natural for me to sign up when my high school, during my senior year, re-instituted its swim team. For me and some of my surfing buddies it was a shoe-in for a letter and the try-outs turned out to be a piece of cake! As it turned out, I was assigned to swim the breaststroke (in my mind the ugliest stroke of all) and the 200-meter individual medley, both in which I bronze medaled but never really saw as enjoyable. Perhaps, as I look back on our swimming days, it may have been because we never used goggles!

The Zen of Ocean Swimming

The Zen of Ocean Swimming

My senior year in high school went quickly and the whole prospect of swimming was something I gladly left behind without even the slightest feeling that something I had done every day for an entire season would be in any way missed. Yes, it was time to close the chapter of swimming in my life and replace it with more appealing activities like surfing, diving, and boating.

During my four years of college and the fifteen years that would follow I grew impassioned with sailing and never had a second thought about swimming until after the end of a five-year relationship. As is often the case for individuals after a major beak-up, I needed to do something different. That’s when swimming came back into my life.

Over the years, I had gained some thirty-five pounds beyond the one hundred and fifty with which I left high school not to mention the unhealthy cigarette habit I had picked up along the way. Realizing I needed to regain something of my old lifestyle, I turned to the fitness regimen I knew best, swimming.

I went to the local pool and soon lost interest with the never-ending laps, interrupting flip turns, and overall boredom which I remembered so well from my training sessions back in high school. One day, I went to Ala Moana Beach, a lagoon which was protected from the ocean swells by a large fringe reef and measured just over a kilometer from one end of the park to the other. A group called the Waikiki Swim Club, a masters swim group, would meet every Saturday morning with some members swimming to the half-way mark and back for a kilometer while others swam to the far marker and back for a two-kilometer (2K) swim. The best in the group were doing the “2K” in under a half-hour, a feat which really impressed me!

For some reason a sense of competitiveness I never knew existed arose in me and I wanted to do the 2K in under a half-hour! Soon I found myself going every day to Ala Moana lagoon, before and after work, and also during the weekends. On some evenings, I would be swimming in darkness with only the lighted elevator shaft of one of the Waikiki hotels to guide me back to my starting point.