Those of us who have raced have all heard the announcer say if you need a swim buddy they can be found over by here or there or out in the water wearing a particular color swim cap. For most people the swim is the hardest part of the triathlon especially in open water. But for those of us who live in California we have the pleasure of surf entries along with swimming along the coast with some swell. For most first time people it’s a lot to handle mentally and they aren’t sure they can even do it. What goes through your mind when you move from swimming countless laps in a swimming pool to having to swim 200-250 meters off shore through the surf? That’s where Swim Buddies come in. They are the one’s who are there if you need it and to help keep you focused at the task at hand and so that you don’t feel as alone out there.
I took the chance to volunteer at as a Swim Buddy at the Carlsbad Triathlon this past July 14th. I was a little nervous at first I didn’t really have a lot of surf entries under my belt as a triathlete. Now I had tons of surf entries as a kid and as an avid body boarder and I was curious if they would be the same. Well I signed up and decided that it was giving back to the tri community and I’d learn from it. I had volunteered for the Tri Club of San Diego at the SDIT Expo and got a lot out of it and really felt good about it and I got to meet some great people. Being a Swim Buddy was nothing short of the same and super rewarding.
I started the day really excited, it was almost as if I was racing that day I felt really good about the weather and conditions. Once I got there and signed the typical waiver paperwork those of us from Tri Club that volunteered made our way down to the beach and kind of went over everything. I was really shocked at how many people had come out, took all the nervousness of being a first timer right away. I was asked to be a floater in the surf (Yeah the guy getting beat on by the waves) and just be there to encourage people trying to get out and they could do it. There were a few people that I swam out with to the turn buoy and they thanked me as they made the turn. It was a really rewarding day even if that was all the help I could give, but I wasn’t done. As the other waves had started I noticed a swimmer without a cap and without goggles and she was struggling just to make it to the first turn buoy. I swam over to her and offered to swim with her along the way, and she said that would be great. As we swam I had to call life guards over to her so that she could rest on the boards we had some conversations. This was her first triathlon and she was extremely nervous about the swim and wasn’t sure if she could do it. Her older brother had talked her into it but she didn’t want to give up so we kept swimming and stopping at the lifeguard boards to rest. As we reached the last turn and swam up to the beach she was so excited to have finished it that even I got excited to watch her finish the swim and be a part of her first triathlon experience. As we finally reached shore she walked over to me and gave me a hug and said that she would not have been able to do it without me being right there helping her through. As I swam back out to help the last of the stragglers swim in the overwhelming gratitude from the swimmers towards us was just undeniable. That is what being a swim buddy is all about and now I am totally hooked! If I am not racing or tied to work, you can bet that I’ll be volunteering as a swim buddy when I can.