Welcome to all the members of Outside The Box!
A short while ago while I was surfing the internet I googled about African and African Americans in swimming. The first thing to pop up was Lee Pitts Jr's well-researched and well-articulated article on the subject http://www.ishof.org/pdf/black_splash.pdf
As I read the piece it bolstered my already high drive to get more folks of color excited about open water swimming. In was fascinated to read about a slave in 1679 who survived a ship wreck off Martinique and reached shore after swimming for 60 hours! Let that sink in for a moment. I consider myself a very strong open water swimmer; I've swum Alcatraz Island back to the mainland, I've swum under the Golden Gate Bridge for the whole span (in waters we locally called the "washing Machine"), and I am planning a solo crossing of my first leg in the triple crown of swimming, The Catalina Channel. But in all my exploits I swimming I have never ventured into open water without at least one pilot and often times several. Here was a man - whose name is lost in history - that had no pilot, no food (heck on a three mile swim I'll feed at least twice!), no idea of how the currents were running (i.e.was it ebbing, flooding, slack), no idea if sharks were nearby and yet through his sheer will he made it to shore!
That is why when I concluded this article by Brother Lee (which I believe should be required reading for all swimmers!), that I knew that I wanted to re-introduce our community to open water swimming. Don;t get me wrong I'm excited when I see young and old African and Latino/a people learning this life skill, but what about comfort in open water? Most folks who swim in the pool look at me like I'm nuts when I say I swim in the ocean and that I don't wear a wetsuit - even in the winter.
But my answer is always the same, "You might know how to handle yourself in the pool but what if your in a natural body of water like a river or the ocean, what would you do? How would you know how to deal with a rip tide, or a back eddy, what are the signs of onset hypothermia and how do you deal with it?"
A lot of people say they won't need to know what to do because they'll never be in that situation and that is where I feel it is important to let them know that the more you know the better off you are. So I've made it my mission to get folks comfortable and enjoy the part of the planet that comprises two-thirds of it. I am trying to get a small program together for next summer whereby African American and Latino youth that want to give open water swimming a try can come to a club
I'm a member of, and give the open water a try. There is a Black swim club in Oakland that I am speaking with about this and I'm open to any and all who want to learn. I would raise the money myself to get this done because that is one of the main reasons why kids don't swim - finances.
I'm happy I came across Diversity in Aquatics on the web and joined. I've met and corresponded with some great folks who are doing awesome work for the sport of swimming. I have big dreams for exposing more folks of color to the ocean, rivers and lakes all over the country and world. I'm hoping that I might one day have the honor of training or help train a young African American man or woman who wants to swim the English Channel (to my knowledge Charles "Tuna" Chapman is still the only success so far).
Anyway, I just thought I'd share a bit of our true origins in swimming and hope that others will be spurred on by the thought of going out and giving it a try. So welcome to all members and keep swimming and informing!