Thinking back to Sherr’s chapter on swimming history, it is clear that people have always swam in some way or another. Ancient Greeks used swimming militarily, then it fell out of favor most likely due to the nudity, and then the renaissance revived swimming as a leisure activity. That leisure is what we often think of swimming today, but swimming is not something that everyone can do innately. It takes education, but our bodies are not completely unnatural in the water. As we have read when you toss an infant in the pool, it will paddle away. Now this is not a risk I would personally be willing to take, but it is amazing that infants can swim when it is a skill that eludes many adults. I think of Cullen Jones’s (couldn’t link this for some reason so the link is in the title) efforts to educate that adult news reporter and the fear that was on her face when she tried to just put her face in the water, for some reason something that has always seemed so natural to me, can seem very foreign and scary to other people. Even without the fear of sharks in open water or without the “What the Hell is Under me Factor” this adult woman was terrified of the pool where nothing was going to get her, all that was bellow her was concrete and water.
My early education is something I am lucky to have received. My mom wanted her children to have the skills she lacked, and she wasn’t a strong swimmer, and she wasn’t a strong public speaker, so I was put on swim team and in plays. But that kind of education is not available for everyone. Unfortunately swimming has become an activity reserved for a certain class level in the modern America. I think of our time lounging alongside the pool while the Devinger Dolphins swam by. I think of looking around at all the “stay at home moms” and the mini-mansions in the neighborhood surrounding the pool. They are the ones who can afford to swim. When you juxtapose that image with the closed public pools around Greenville, you realize that a bunch of old racists deprived an entire generation of a life saving skill. We have heard many statistics about minorities and children who drown every year, and that is unfortunately an socio economic status problem. If these children had been given access to a pool in the summer, like I had every year, maybe the numbers would not be so grim. Maybe swimming is something that we only do if we have the means and the education. Those are the basics, without those things, there would be no top training facilities for Olympians. The swimming Olympians are different from others, because they had to have access to a particular type of facility and essentially have to have parents who have some affluence to pay for pool access and training for so many years. This leads in to the other side of swimming, takes us from the leisure and into the extreme sport phase. Maybe it is not talent that makes you extraordinary in swimming, but instead persistence and precision. Swimming is not a great way to lose weight, the sport is about efficiency, pulling strokes efficiently, floating efficiently, kicking efficiently, breathing efficiently are all necessary elements to being a swimmer. Those who are competitive both in the open water and the pool are all swimming towards something. Whether it be a sense of relaxation, a time for self-reflection, getting a personal best time, or reaching the former Soviet Union from the United States, these swimmers are going for a goal. Once the basics are in place, we swim to reach some personal goal for ourselves. When I swim slow, I feel that I am reaching that self reflection, and when I swim fast I think back to my time as a competitive swimmer. I think of the one high school season when swimming finally became easy, when I was for the first time able to maintain a constant pace through a practice. That open water swim was one of the only other times I have felt like that, I was not in shape, but when I crawled over the rocks onto the shore I felt accomplished. I felt lighter, hungry, and like I had achieved my goals. That is why I swim.