I received my first taste of ocean swimming when I was 14 through the Los Angeles County Junior Lifeguard program. I decided to join because I had never had much ocean experience and this seemed to be what swimmers did in the summer. Little did I know that I was about to begin something that would both terrify me and challenge me in new and exciting ways. At this point, I was a strong swimmer with VERY limited ocean and wave experience. I soon learned that waves terrified me and that very little of my skills in the pool transferred easily to the ocean. For that whole first summer, I refused to put my face into the cold water and was almost without exception last in every event.
Fast forward several years to today and I am once again swimming in the ocean in large surf. I am still sometimes afraid when the waves get big and I begin to feel out of control, but I have learned to control my fear and even to use it to fuel my determination. During my short training swim today, the combination of a high surf advisory and high tide meant that there was a lot of moving water for us to contend with. It is swims like this that remind me how vast and powerful the ocean is but also teach me how to rely on my instincts. There were points where all we could see was the angry water around us a couldn’t distinguish the landmarks we were sighting. On top of these conditions, the water was a cold 60 degrees. I am learning to look forward to these challenging swims because I know they will help me get through tough conditions during my Catalina crossing.