A History of Swimming

This has been kind of an interesting journey for me, this swim stuff. See, I never could swim as a kid. I tried. I remember having to take a class at the Y when I was elementary school aged. I didn’t do well, though. All I remember is endless kicks while hanging onto the wall. It seemed irresponsible, and illogical to then go from leg kicks to actually jumping off a milk crate into the water. This was their process in the 80’s, I guess.

Needless to say, I was not a swimmer by the end of that class.

My next memory is being at summer camp – again with the Y – and it was a beach day. I must’ve been around 10 or so. Everyone was in the water. This was So Cal, afterall, who DIDN’T go in the water at the beach?


So when I did, it was all fun and games until a wave took me out. And by “out” I mean “under”. There were no counselors around. This was a free-form beach camp day. I had the cliche` experience of being knocked under repeatedly until I managed to get to shallow enough water and I dragged myself wet and sputtering and spitting and coughing onto my towel. No counselors or campers were the wiser, either. I literally saved my own life. Remember, I still didn’t know how to swim and this was the 80’s. There were no helicopter parents or, by default, helicopter counselors. They were teenagers in Southern California being paid to go to the beach with a bunch of kids.

Next on the water docket, summer camp.

By the way, this whole post seems like an awful yelp review of any and all YMCA programs, and I apologize. It’s not. It was just the way things were back then and as everyone loves to say, “I still made it.”

I was sent to a week long summer camp every year with, you guessed it, the Y!
“YM YM YMCA CA CA CAMP YMCA CA MP YMCA CA MP Y Camp, Y Camp, yeeeeaaaaa!”
We had to do swim tests in the pool if you wanted to venture to the deep end. Since all I could manage was a strong doggie paddle and a decent water tread, I never made it. I was quite happy to stay in the shallow end, though. My only take  away from that experience was being teased for my “extra boobs”. Again, I was the fat kid. The “Boobs” to which they were referring was the armpit fat that gets bunched up between your bathing suit and armpit. I still have it, but i’m much meaner looking now, so if anyone is teasing, it’s behind my back where it belongs.

I didn’t learn how to properly swim until I was an adult. My husband can. He’s ridiculous. We are an oxymoron. He is Canadian and can swim like a large dolphin while the So Cal gal swims like a rock. We lived in Arizona and had a backyard pool like everyone else. It’s a necessity there. That is where I learned to swim. When we went on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean we did an excursion to swim along a reef. It was the only excursion I could sign up for since I was 6 months pregnant. (In my defense, we waited to do the cruise until the summer after our wedding)

I had to practice wearing the snorkel gear in the pool on the ship first… for like an hour. I had serious claustrophobia putting that crap on and depending on it for my life. We wont even talk about my shark phobia. It’s nearly debilitating. I’m often convinced that I drowned AND was eaten by a school of sharks in a past life.

Anyway, gear practiced, arms and legs cooperating, we head down to the beach in Cancun. There is a storm brewing, so we actually changed beaches. The guides warned us the current might get rough, but they had a backup raft if anyone had issues.

As suggested by the guides, since this was my first ocean swim, I stayed close to them and firmly on the beach side of my husband. This way, if a shark approached, I was sure the appetizer would satisfy the beast before snacking on me. It was a mile or a half mile swim out to the reef, then a mile down the reef, then a half or full mile back in…  I think it must’ve been just a half mile out to the reef, this was 10 years ago so I don’t really remember.

The swim on the reef was aaaaaaaahmaaaaazing! I quickly worked through my paranoia and fear and soon focused on the fish. We even saw a sea turtle. I thoroughly loved it. Once the reef swim was over, however, the storm moved closer. We had to swim back to shore against the current.

I’m 6 months pregnant. Have never swam in the ocean before this, and i’ve already swam a mile and a half at best. Swimming against a current proved 100% challenging. Everyone else in our group took the raft back to shore. Why didn’t I, you might wonder?

We tried! It was like loading a sedated elephant into a Prius.

I’m 5’10 and at the time weighed over 250lbs. Our guides were small Latin men maybe 5’6..? The raft was getting tossed around by the current and the waves, my husband literally went under the water to try and elevator me into the raft, but my belly and giant ass prohibited anyone from being able to pull me up.

So, die or swim? I swam. My husband the dolphin swam beside me. I did some of it on my back, but I did it.

I have never been so exhausted, aside from the 2 times i’ve been in labor.

I loved the snorkeling part so much, we did it once more on a LOCAL beach at our last stop. No marathon swimming was necessary, either.

So after all that you’d think i’d hate swimming, right? That just explains the lengths of hatred I’ve developed for exercise that this is the thing in the end I end up choosing as “fun”.


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