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Mark Fromberg - Swimming in the Open Water, a Transcendent Experience

Dr. Mark Fromberg

Good afternoon folks. And welcome to the on-deck show, a show that takes a look at people and organizations operating outside the scope of normal to make things better for folks like you and I; every day today, we have the opportunity to speak with retired doctor Mark Fromberg out of Kelowna. Mark is one of the creators of the Swim Buddy, an open water swim safety product popular amongst open water swimmers in Canada.

 

He's the author of two books, Swimming in the Open Water and Swimming in the Open Water Volume II both available on Amazon. He's an advocate for open water swimming, and he's passionate about the subject. He believes that everybody should know how to swim and especially know how to swim in the open water.

 

Seeing as so much of the earth's surface is covered with water today, we're going to dive into some of those topics, and we're just going to let Mark tell us about swimming in the open water and why he loves it so much. We welcome Mark.

Below you will find an unedited transcript of our conversation. You can find the Youtube & Spotify links by clicking below

Be seen and stay safe while swimming in the open water

A Holistic Approach to Open Water Swimming

Good morning, Mark. So I realized after I recorded that intro, I left out the fact that you are one of the principal organizers of the Across The Lake Swim, which is definitely, um, a notable fact because it's the most prominent open water swim, race swim event in Canada.

And I say event because I believe that like you, you have a, um, You're much more connected with the open water, um, than most people are. So I would say it's much more than just a race. It's an event. It's, it's an experience. So, um, I want to go and that in a second, but I want to start with you as a doctor.

So I know that you, um, your history as a doctor, doctor, um, you always put the person first and you believed in, um, you know, What doing what was best for the person and not necessarily traditional medicine, is that accurate? Can I say that you know, in medicine, there's been traditionally a, uh, what's called a paternalistic approach to patients where you go to see the doctor with your problem, the doctor owns the problem, he tells you what to do and that's it. But in the last decade or two, there's been an increasing movement towards. Empowerment and a sense of giving the patient the control of their destiny, if you will, to actually work with the patient and give them the directions, and then they own the problem and they can work with it.

So they become not so much. You know, a dependent person on the doctor, but they become independent and stronger. So you, by empowering people to get them to make healthier choices, you know, not smoking, not drinking too much, exercising well, eating well, resting, sleeping, and less stress, you know, and these are all motherhood issues.

And yet, um, you know, unfortunately, a lot of medicine is dictated by the prescription pad, and I've never really liked that very much. So, uh, I've often thought that, Hey, if you do everything right, your need to visit doctors is going to be fairly limited. And then you're going to maintain your independence, your health, and vitality for much less.

Fair enough. And, um, there's a connection there in terms of that holistic approach and the relationship you have to open water swimming. I know we've talked about this in the past and you've talked about it as a transcendent experience; can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Yeah. You know, as you pointed out earlier, I mean, 70% of the workers surface as water, so. We're all sort of intimately familiar with water; wherever we live, you can't survive anywhere without at least some of it. So whether you live by a river or a lake or an ocean, you're going to be likely near water.

And so we have a relationship with it, whether we like it or not. And yet, so many people have never really gotten comfortable with it. And that included me actually, for the longest part. I never really had any formal swimming lessons as a kid. And because of that, I always had some trepidation being near water times.

Like when somebody would say, Hey, let's go to the beach and play football to play football or something. I'd be the one hand back and watching everybody sort of thing. And yet, yeah. Getting it to water. Um, once you get over the fear of being in it and understanding that the water will work with you, if you let it and the water isn't out to get you in any real way, you just have to work with it.

Initially, it kind of feels like working with a clumsy dancing partner or something, but the point is that you can learn to enjoy it. And it can be actually a transcendent experience because it gives you a sense of independence and freedom that you never had before. Once you feel like this is no longer your enemy.

So I've always been one of the reasons I really enjoy working with the, uh, the across lake swim process is that as you say, we try to make it more of an event for most people. Obviously, lots of people race the event to see how fast they can do it. But most people. Honestly are just happy to do it. And there's something to be said about the victory of mind over matter, to be able to swim over a deep lake, two kilometers worth, keeping your head the whole time, just focusing on what you need to get done.

And so many people when they find it. Feet on the sand. They're not even out of the lake yet. And they've already got their arms up calling. Yes, I did it. Even though there's a finish line, it's still another 20 meters away. Hey, you got to cross the line and then they go, no, you know, I've already done it.

I've already succeeded. So I'm at the end of the day, I don't even think the racers care so much what their time was, what they do care about is that, Hey, I did it. I crossed this like, and in that sense, It makes you more than you were. It makes you, it grows you internally. You you've succeeded in overcoming a hurdle and everybody who crosses that line as, as I can tell you, they're smiling.

They're happy. It's a compelling, favorable hearing. Yeah, and I want to come back to that in a second, but you touched on something there that, um, I want to get to first. So, uh, along the lines of what you do with, um, across the lake, there's also, Oakenoggen swims where you guys and your organization, you actually fund swimming lessons for kids, a grade three and below.

Is that correct? Yeah. Yeah. So it's actually mostly graded threes. Um, I think below, I don't think frankly, there's probably not enough money to do all of that, but, uh, we've just decided that the right age is probably grade three, the eight year olds if you will. They're old enough to be physically there.

They're already into the routine of school. Um, they're more teachable perhaps than the average five or six-year-old. And, um, so I, it was kind of a, an arbitrary decision, uh, based on what the lifeguards, uh, our local Ys said as well as the S the, uh, local schools. Um, but we settled on one particular year.

And, um, and the goal there was to sort of essentially drown-proof a community. I mean, the idea of, of, of saying, okay, when you can teach people to swim at an early enough age before they've actually learned all kinds of negative attributes of water, you know, What, what adults can tell me about a negative experience they've had in the water.

You know, whether they were dragged behind a boat or they fell off a dock, or, you know, they, you know, they got held under water by their big brother, you know, who knows the point is they all had something in their head that it's developed that is now a quota, a near death experience associated with water.

And because of that, you know, it's funny how the older you get the harder it is to teach somebody comfortable skills within water. So. The younger, they are the more, you know, untouched, they are with those negative experiences. And because of that, it makes them actually enjoy the water. You can watch these kids play in the water and they're thrilled with being in it.

I mean, they, they splash. They just think it's great fun because they don't, they haven't developed those negative feelings. And yet the average 25 year old, who's never been near water. Watch them freak out as soon as they're in deep water. And it's quite remarkable how difficult it is to teach an adult swim.

Compared to a younger kid. Absolutely. That's fantastic. And how has that program been, um, adopted within, is it just Colona? Is the Okanogan valley it's, it's sort of the central Okanagan. I mean, the ergonomic valley obviously expanding the spans essentially from, you know, Vernon to, uh, uh, Penticton essentially.

So there's quite a long breadth of water there in the central Okanogan right now is the most populous area in and in and of itself. That's Princeton. I think there are 150,000 people just in that area. And so there are some 3000. Kids in grade three, um, that can benefit from them. So at a certain point, the money only goes so far.

I mean, if we had more money to raise, we'd probably try to take on a larger area. But, uh, so far we're pretty content with sort of focusing on what we can do and do reasonably well. So interesting enough, it's not the swimming lessons that cost the most money. It's the busing of the kids, to the swimming lessons.

And so, you know, depending on where the schools are, would dictate just how long the bus ride is and therefore how expensive it gets. So, um, we're happy to carry, you know, at least do our thing for our community in Oakland. The Okanagan one of the, one of the dubious distinctions that the Okanagan lake has.

It is the most drowned in lake, in British Columbia right now. We're not real proud of that, but having said that, um, if there's a silver lining to that, most of the people who drown in Okanagan lake, I mean, are people who come to visit the Okanagan and they're may not be familiar with the lake. Um, you know, they may be a little bit carried away with getting too rambunctious or too drunk on a boat, or God knows what, um, but, um, I can say that most of the people that are unfortunately succumbing to drowning in our lake don't come from here.


So our first goal is to take care of our own people here. Um, and hopefully that kind of wisdom will spread over time to other communities, but, uh, we can do our bit and we'll stick. Yeah, and that that's great. I that's a fact I did not know. Um, and, uh, you know, like earlier in the summer we ran a drowning prevention series and we're transitioning that to a water safety series, uh, now, um, and really, you know, trying to get people to understand that drowning prevention and water safety is not a seasonal thing.

It's not something you just pay attention to in the spring when the snow melts. It's something you need to be aware of 12 months of the year, and the risks are all around you, even if you don't see them right. Well, that's great. And I'm sure that, uh, the residents of the central Okanagan are eternally grateful.


I know I would be if, you know, like we had a, that service for us. But, um, and I guess ironically like there was a time in BC and Alberta where swimming was just part of the curriculum, and it's been yanked out. Um, and, uh, you know, we see the, the by-product of that now. So, um, going back to the, across the lakes, Uh, so in terms of the event and what you guys do, um, you know, like having been there as a vendor, having, having had family participate in the event and so on, like I know the experience I see, like you see the smile on people's faces when they come out, you see the excitement when they're getting bused to the other side of the lake and so on.

Um, as an organizer, as an advocate of open water swimming, What does it mean to you to see so many happy people come through the event and returned to the event every year? You know, it's almost ironic to say this, but, as a physician, I would deal with patients one-on-one to try to help them get better and, you know, get back into their lives.

And, and, you know, this event to me has been. More meaningful in an ironic sense, uh, to see people thrive in ways that I could never get them to thrive in the doctor's office. You know what I mean? Um, so often in the doctor's office, I'm actually helping somebody get back from the brink of serious illness back to something normal.

Um, Throw them a prescription of some kind to try to get him back to once where they were, but with the across lake swim, you know, as an event, we're trying to actually transcend where they are to even something more than they were. And, and, uh, you know, it's for some of these people. It's there, you know, it's, it's like counting, climbing, Mount Everest.

I mean, it's, this is a, uh, an event that makes them more fulfilled when they started and, and, you know, having gone through the process myself of, of, um, having to learn how to swim as an adult, um, You know, I, I know firsthand how meaningful that actually is, so I know what they're going through and I'm totally excited to be part of helping them to get there.

And as you know, we, we spend something like six weeks ahead of the event to try to get people. Fully aware of what they need to know and in swimming in deep and open water. So we have weekly lessons to, to build them up to that point. So we can sort of screen out all those types of people that aren't ready to do it.

And we can certainly help those people who are willing an interest to try. And, um, it makes for a much more likely successful event. Come, come actually swim time. And, uh, and as you say, I mean, when you see all these smiling happy faces, this sense of, uh, cumulative victory, if you will. I mean, they're their victory in a sense is my victory too, because.

We we've shepherded them in that direction to a point where yes, I did it. I did it. And of course, the minute that you actually have some meaningful, significant event that you've succeeded in doing, um, then it opens the door to other things in your life. Like, Hey, if I could do this, I can do that. And it's just a matter of working at it and being diligent about it.

I'm committed to it and chances are, you can do that. So that's why they say those swimming lessons that we have. Um, in a way it kind of weeds out all those people that sort of sign up as a Lark. Oh, I, maybe I can do it. Sure. I can do it. I've I've swum once in my life or something, you know, it doesn't seem that far.

And you know, they, they, um, we kind of call them on it in the sense of, okay, well, come on. Let's just see how you can do, and it's amazing how many people go. Wow. I just didn't realize how much different it is to swim in open water then. Hmm, I'm gonna get into that more, um, a bit, um, you learn to swim as an adult.

Yeah. So, um, Y um, well, let me just be Frank and asking the question. What, what took you so long to learn how to swim? Well, you know, I mean, first of all, opportunities were limited as a kid, uh, to get swimming lessons. Um, I guess I was, you know, Although I grew up in the greater Vancouver area. So I wasn't very far away from water.

The ocean was sort of more intimidating and, you know, I mean, I guess I was by, by other sports at the time. I mean, I played lots of baseball and tennis and whatever. And so I was happy from an exercise point of view to do all those things. And I remember having a friend who wasn't in a local sort of swim club.

And she was getting up at five in the morning to go swimming. And like, that was just not in the cards. So I actually thought, you know, like, that's all fine, but I did actually have some friends of mine who were good swimmers and they would kind of go, Hey, let's go to the beach and play football in the water and have, you know, diving catches in the water and all this kind of stuff.

And you know, they'd be out treading water, you know, a hundred meters off of lighthouse park, throwing Frisbees around. And it's like, Oh, my God, I can't do that. I got, you know, and so, so there was a certain avoidance pattern after a while that were built up. And, you know, I can't say I had an awful lot of drowning experiences really, but I can think of one or two where I think, uh, you know, that was lucky or something and, and those kinds of things sit on you.

And of course there's a feeling of inadequacy that sort of settles in on you. And that I can sort of do the avoidance pattern for so long, but you know, in my early forties, What my wife was a lifeguard growing up and she's actually a very good swimmer. And, and, uh, when our kids were young, they, um, my wife had them in the pool when they were six months of age.

And by the time they were five and six, they were pretty good sweaters. I mean, they certainly didn't have water phobia or fear. I mean, like they just kind of love to splash around and all that kind of stuff. And then there, there, there was a time where, you know, I'd be sitting in the kiddie pool with the kids and they'd kind of go, ah, I'm tired of this.

I'm going to go into the pool and do some lengths. And here I am, you have a grand matriarch and patriarch of my family and I'm the kid in the swim in the kiddie pool while my kids and my wife are doing laps in the pool. And it's like, oh, there's something wrong with this picture? You know? So, um, I think the worst part of it was thinking that gee, if I ever fell off, if I, if we were on a family, cruise on a boat, we fell over, my kids would be trying to rescue me the other way around.

And frankly, I'd probably freak out and drown the both in the process. So I. Couldn't sit still for that. And, and, you know, I think a couple of things came together all at once when it was this sort of nagging feeling that wasn't going away. And the other one was, um, I, I had a back injury from playing squash, I think, and, and, uh, I couldn't walk and I couldn't run and I couldn't do all the sports I really needed to do.

And the only place I didn't have pain was in pool. I couldn't swim. So I actually had to sign up for swimming lessons, which was a very humbling experience. Where you just kind of go, geez, I hope nobody recognizes me here. I just felt like a total nerd, you know, but, uh, so it wasn't, it was okay after a while, but that it was a big, big, first step to do.

And from there to here where, you know, like now I w I guess I would say you're probably a subject matter expert in terms of open water swimming. You've written two books. Uh, you host a major event in Canada, you coach open water swimmers, and so on and so forth. Um, so going through your website, you you'll, you list a few points that kinda summarize, um, you know, open water swimming for you.

So I want to go through those and maybe each one of them. And you can just say a few words on it. So. Um, enriching your experiences. What is it? Well, as I said before, you know, if you can do something that, um, successfully, uh, first of all, it can actually allow you to consider other bigger, better things in your life.

Hey, if I can swim, you know, why can't I consider going surfing in Hawaii or learn how to kiteboard or, you know, like all of a sudden. Your life actually opens doors to you in various ways. And so in that sense, that gets rich. But even before we get to that, um, you know, swimming as an experience, and this is something I didn't really expect.

And I, I get it mostly when I swim open water, I'm not so much in the pool. And that is that, you know, The, the cadence and the regular swimming stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke, stroke, breath. I mean, it's, it sounds very repetitive, but on the other hand, it's meditative, if you will, like, you can kind of lose yourself in that rhythm.

And, and so it's just you and you're in the water and in a way, Um, what I also love about it and especially useful today is that you get completely unhooked from the world. Does the cell phone is nowhere near you. You can't deal with it. And, uh, on the other hand, you know, you are now just you in the water and almost nothing else.

And the only thing that you can hear is the sound of the lapping water as you're stroking, uh, you know, there's no conversations, there's no newscasts, there's no bad news. Uh, there's no traffic to deal with. There's no work stream. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. So it's a complete unhook and it's a wonderful experience in the sense that you can now actually at least leave your life behind into this parallel universe or these fertile life.

And when you finish it, you know, again, you feel refreshed and transcended in some way. And then that say in that way, I feel you're also enriched because what I find about swimming in open water is that ironically. It's grounding. It actually gets you back to who you are, you know, like when all the extraneous crap is out of your life, um, it's just you in the water.

Who are you anyway? Well, I'm just a small little thing in the whole world and, uh, all this water is here. Just a part of me for now. And, uh, it's just you, it's just you, nothing more, nothing less. And in that sense, it's a great way to connect back with some basic fundamental attributes of who you actually are.

Brilliant. That's a great answer. Um, I feel like a lot of these are going to kind of run into each other, but I still want to kind of go through them one by one. So, um, feel safer beyond the obvious. What does that mean to you? Yeah, so, you know, one of the things that I often mentioned to the, to the.

Potential across lake swimmers as their training and our events is that, you know, the lake is not wanting to swallow you up. It wants to spit you out. It's not out to get you, you know, like, like when people have some anxiety over the water, like as they Wade in deeper and deeper, they start to realize that they're being engulfed by something.

Yeah, one more step in there. Now we're going to be surrounded and taken by this water, but the water doesn't have a personality. It's not out to get you. And, uh, and one of the things that we often do this, I just call it the sit on the bottom drill. We were at about four or five feet of water. And I ask everybody to sit on the bottom and just go down and try to sit on it.

And nobody can do it for much more than a second. They all just slowly pop right up. And of course I admonish them and I say, listen, I asked you to sit on the bottom and they go, I can't. I go well, exactly right. You have to wait for it, but the water is trying to push you out. It's trying to bring you back to the surface and I don't care which part of the lake you want to do this experiment, and I can guarantee you it's exactly the same everywhere you go.

So if you get a feeling. The safety and security of what the water situation is. I mean, of course there's lots of things to know about every particular source of water that you're in and whether it's a fast running stream or a title current or godliness SWAT. I mean, those are all important things, but it's essentially about the water itself.

It's trying to float you up. It's not trying to swallow you up. So in that sense, you know, your, your feeling of safety and security is actually improved by learning how to swim. Mm, great tip. Um, you kind of touched on this before, but enter a FA uh, new, uh, new fitness. Yeah. So, you know, especially for old farts like me, you know, when the joints start to hurt a lot, when you, you know, I mean, I've played a lot of running type sports, soccer, baseball, you know, and I've done triathlon and tennis and squash are all hard on the joints after a while, uh, running, you know, like running as, you know, No, the Cooper aerobics phenomenon, the jogging phrase that started in the late sixties, early seventies, you know, running and certainly been a sort of mainstream event for fitness, cardiovascular fitness, and fair enough.

It carries on well today. And of course, sports like marathons and triathlons have really embraced that, but gets harder to do as you get older. And you don't even have to be that before you start complaining about, oh, my hips are hurting. My knees hurt and all that kind of stuff. And yet in the water, the water support supports and suspends you, it's not hard on the joints.

And, you know, I have known many people who are still swimming into their eighties and nineties. Um, and it's the one place where they can actually have sort of gentle resistance, you know, and you've probably seen. Water aerobics courses, classes effectively. And the people who actually like those the most tend to be slightly older or people who've had bad arthritis or things along with joint problems, you know, past histories of joint pain or, uh, surgeries or guidance.

Um, and part of that is simply because that gravitational force right through you, isn't it. And, and now you can actually start to move in ways that only has gentle resistance. You know, I've had probably dozens, if not hundreds of running injuries, I can't recall having had a swimming injury it all the time.

I've done it. And I mean, except for, yeah. Hitting my finger on a lane rope or something like that. Um, you know, it's never been hard on my joints. It's never been hard on any other thing. I mean, yes, I can tire myself out in various ways, but it's certainly not like, you know, running where you sprained an ankle or your knee is swollen for a week or two, that just doesn't happen in water.

And so I do wonder if in fact we really should be more water aware because this is relatively accessible. It's inexpensive and it's good. Yeah. And it certainly is, you know, that therapeutic aspect, which ties into your next point, which is connecting with nature. And I know that's a big, a stable. Yeah. So, you know, in Japan, And they have a concept called, uh, Shinran Yoku and what that means.

And I don't speak Japanese. Um, what that means is forest bathing. Now I hate to sound stereotypical, but the Japanese. People are hardworking people. Many of them work 10 and 12 hour days. They work six days a week. You know, they're often trapped in cubicles in downtown Tokyo sort of thing. And you could, well imagine this sort of very, oh, I mean, it's a, it's a very sterile environment.

Uh, there's nothing natural about it. You're you don't even see the air half the day. And, uh, and what many of these people do are they're very stressed and, uh, whether some of them turned to drinking or smoking, that's one thing, but. What's also really interesting is how often these people will take their one day off in the week, get onto a train and ticket for 200 miles outside of Tokyo to the nearest big forest where they literally just walk through the forest to touch the trees, to hear the gurgling Brook, to smell the fresh air that comes through the branches of the trees to actually see things wafting in the reason, and actually having a feeling of actual dirt underneath your feet and feeling what nature is all about.

They have found. And there's been studies on this now where these people who have high blood pressure all week because of the stress, the nature of their work and the lack of sleep, et cetera, their blood pressure comes down measurably within half an hour of being in an island environment. And so it's a, it's a really important thing to know that when you're in a natural environment, Your body feels more relaxed and being an open water is exactly the same thing.

It happens to be water as opposed to the forest, but I would submit that it's exactly the same thing. And just like I mentioned earlier, you know, when you're swimming in this rhythmical kind of meditation, um, you are actually bringing your blood pressure down. It's a calming thing. It stills your mind and in that's way, and that way.

It's terribly therapeutic. And that connection with nature to me can, should be for all of us, two things, getting into water and getting into the forest away from houses and buildings and highways and cars and things. Um, and I w I would add probably disconnecting from technical. Yeah. And that's actually a big part of it.

Yeah. So your next point is distress. We've kind of become a, we kind of covered that with what you just said, and your final point is become life confident. What is that? Yeah, so, and that sort of alludes to something I said before, you know, like when you have a, a feeling of self efficacy, like you can actually succeed at doing something.

I mean, like we've all tried things and failed them, you know? I mean, you could probably say that. Well, I tried skateboarding a couple of times. I broke my ankle and I'm never doing that again. Right. Tried to go snowboarding and it lasted a couple of times and I have a head injury and I'm not doing that again.

And you can get the sort of feeling of it. Failure, especially marked by injury or something like that. And, and so whenever you've had a series of what I might call failures or a lack of success, if nothing else, um, that's not life enriching, but if you can actually become a competent swimmer. And you can start to realize that swimming, you can grow in swimming in various ways.

I mean, first of all, it's to learn how to swim then to be able to swim some distance in a controlled environment, like a pool, and then actually get out into open water and then actually increasingly out into. Nastier or colder water with more waves or more wind or, you know, more remoteness. Like there are crazy to swim across the Bering Strait these days, you know?

And, and so, so no matter what level of swimming you're on you are, there's, there's a challenge above you that you can actually continue to grow into. And so it just increases. You are feeling of empowerment and self efficacy, that, that if you can learn how to swim in open water, um, you know, you kind of start to feel like you own it.

And when you do wow, I own that because I believed in myself and I actually focused on this and I was disciplined and thinking in my thinking when I actually was in the water and know, okay, well, if I can use that, I maybe I can apply that to something completely different than whatever that actually is.

That depends on. Where you are in life and what's interesting of interest to you. Oh, you know, if I can focus on becoming a better swimmer, I could become a good university student, or I can become a better baseball player or something like that. Whatever, whatever turns your crank. I mean, you can actually now start applying what you've learned in one thing into another area.

Yeah, brilliant. Brilliant. So, um, I want to talk about, um, kind of people entering into the open water swim world and some, some tips and advice. Um, before we do that before jumping into that question, tell me about the origin of the swim buddy. Cause that's, that's your creation as well. Um, and why was that important?

What purpose does it serve? Why should people use it? Yeah, so you know, many years ago, so, um, 10 or 12, um, it was, I mentioned the Bering Strait and, and, uh, I was invited by somebody to, uh, coach, um, a swimmer who was contemplating becoming part of a team that was going to swim the Bering Strait in little more than just a Speedo in goggles, which is.

For minimal. When you think about it, here's a serious ass, cold water, big, massive ways. I should show you some pictures anyway. Uh, yeah, I'll send you one anyway, because these guys were out there and these are, these were so we're open water, ice swimmers from all over the world, some of the very best in the world.

And they were on swells that were 40 and 50 feet high. You know, like when you have a, when you're taking charge of a swimmer out there. And, you know, if they go down in some way, are you losing in a wave? Like, it could be a critical point. Like, Hey, we've just lost a swimmer. And so they actually were using this, this orange little floaty thing that they had attached that they'd gotten.

I think. And, uh, and apparently, you know, in China, this is something that they had been doing for several years and some, some specific swims. And, uh, and in fact, there's one large swim. I think it's in Taiwan actually that, uh, they have something like 50,000 people who do this swim and overwhelmingly almost all of them are pretty average swimmers with lacking confidence.

And they all have some kind of little floaty, I think with them, some of them have. Essentially pools that they put underneath their armpits and they just do breaststroke over top of it. But others have something that they're toying behind them as their security blanket, essentially. Anyway, but when I saw that picture in the Bering Strait of, of a, of a swimmer just lapping away, he was literally swimming up a hill because of the size of the swell.

And then behind him was this little orange thing. Easy to see where he was and easy to find him and rescue him if that was needed at any point. And it was also something he could hang onto if he actually needed it because he is anxious or swallowed water got in his way. So when I saw that, um, I started researching as to, you know, where and how this all originated.

And, uh, China, I think is where it all came from. There is another organization in the United States. It's actually, um, it's in Florida and it's the international life, life, uh, hall of fame, the international swimming hall of fame. It's called the guy that runs that as well is a retired lawyer. And, uh, he's got a product called the safer swimmer and he gets that made in China as well.

So, um, although I could have contacted him and buy him, buy stock from him, I just thought I'd short circuit and you kind of go to where the origins of this work. And so, you know, after finding a couple of companies that were able to make these things, we've settled on one that had pretty reliable service and good quality products, and we've been bringing them in ever since.

And the whole concept of this, this, um, personal swim boy as it were, is something that you can tow around behind you. That, uh, does not interfere with your swim that's behind you enough so that your arm stroke doesn't touch it. And it's in front of your legs. It's in the crook of your knees underneath you sort of thing, so that your, your kicking is not affected either.

So in that sense, it doesn't affect you. It doesn't actually even have drag, which is surprising, but that's because the bow wave that you create with your body actually eddies behind and actually even pushes it, which is quite interesting. And I've, I've swollen with it many times. Quite surprised how little I felt it was there.

Um, and there's good reason for that, actually. So if you are using one of these things and especially if you're having trouble as a beginner, intermediate, I kind of think of it as training wheels, learning how to ride a bike. Hey, you've got something there and a security if you need it, but if you don't need it, that's fine.

It won't affect you sort of thing. And the other part that's important is good. Good to know, even for accomplishing competence, swimmers. This helps helps you to be seen. Um, and, uh, you know, in our lake, we've got boaters, you know, we've got all kindness of see doers and all kinds of things, power craft, watercraft of all kinds.

And you, you are absolutely, and totally vulnerable out there as an open water swimmer. Since you know, 80, 80% of your body is submerged in water. And therefore the only time that we can see you as the moment that you actually have an arm stroke. Oh, there he is. You know? Oh, there he is. But you know, when there's even minimum chop or swell, you know, you can kind of look where somebody isn't, you just can't see them because there aren't barely crypt clears the water when they actually put their arms stroke in and the rest of them is submerged and it doesn't help if they're wearing a black wetsuit as well.

So, so it's pretty hard to see. So if you have something brightly colored that's tagging on behind you. Ah, there he is, you know, and, and you can actually get a sense of, oh, he's moving is progressing. So he's probably fine. That kind of idea. So, so not only do you have the feeling of safety and security, if you feel anxious, you know, it's got enough air in it to actually help hold you up.

If you need to, you can sit and take a rest. You know, you don't even have to tread water. You can just hold it up against you. Um, you know, Lower shoulder or something like that. You have that as a security blanket, you can sit and wave if you need to. And then on the other hand, if you're competent and you're doing fine, and then you're in way open water, you know, if there's any power boaters that go screaming by you, you know, they can see that orange thing.

Oh yeah. I don't know what that is. That's a marker. Let's clear that because power voters don't want to get their, their rudders tangled up in whatever might lie might be attached to that. So. You're more likely to be avoided if you will at, by, by pulling one of these. So it always made a lot of sense to enhance the safety and security of swimmers from at least a couple of perspective.

Yeah, fair enough. And I guess, um, you mentioned that last summer was a pretty big summer for you guys in terms of sales, with pools being closed and, you know, people wanting to get out into nature. There were more and more people turning to the lakes and oceans and stuff like that. And you certainly have these open water, swim groups popping up across the continent where people are gathering in groups.

Um, oftentimes unsupervised. So no lifeguards, just people going out together. So obviously if you're going. It's the best practices to have one of these swim buddies, um, to make sure that, um, uh, you've got it now, we're putting together some bundles on our site, and you mentioned that having a bright colored cap and a good pair of goggles, like be seen and be able to see are two things that are equally important.

So with that said, including that. W, if somebody's going out with a group for the first time, what are some simple things they need to pay attention to you to stay safe? One of the first things that you need to have some comfort with is the water you're about to get into, you know, if you're familiar with the water, you know, like I've lived here in the Okanagan for 20 years and the beaches where I go swimming, I know them cold.

I, I know what the water is. Like. I know how deep deep it is. I know if there's any hazards, you know, like whether there's, you know, Uh, submerged log or, you know, some rock corner or something. And I know where not to swim or dive. I know where the boats are, this kind of thing. So every open water area is different.

And you know, if I was to go down to the lower mainland and now swim in areas that I'm unfamiliar with, well, I would still go, but I would make a point of going with people who are familiar with this. And so, so, okay. He went, do I need to know about this area? And they might say, well, there's a submerged.

See do over here, avoid that. Or there's a, there's a funny big rock here. You don't want to swim into that. Or, you know, there's some boaters that charge out of here and go water skiing in the morning. You got to watch out for that. And there's a current and there's a tide and there's a, there's some anchors.

We're in the middle of a shipping channel or, you know, any number of things that may actually be important if not critical to your well-being out in the water. So before you actually get in, no, the water or at least ask the right questions or be at least led by somebody who. Competently knows the area well in this one.

Well, that's, that's probably the first and most important thing. And even when you do get into the water again, before you do much in the way of swimming started taking a look around from landmarks. I mean, whenever your swim is going to be, whether it's a point to point or a circle or loop or a back, whatever.

You're going to have to be able to swim in a way, directionally in a straight line, you need to be able to swim so that you know where you're going. And so citing points become very important than siting is a skill that you don't need to learn in a pool, but you certainly do. They teach you to learn it, you know, open water.

And if you haven't learned how to. You know, it's not a very difficult thing to learn, but it is important to learn how to do that. So you're siting for a buoy you're siting for a swim toward that bridge, or sometimes even, you know, swim toward that mountaintop because that is actually in the line that you're going in those types of things.

So if you can. Things sort of set roughly in your mind before even ask about them, Hey, where are you? What do you swim toward when you go west there or something like that? Those are all important points to make sure that your swim is an efficient swim and that you don't wind up sort of drifting off into someplace where you shouldn't go.

So, uh, familiarity with it with the site is, is probably the first, most important thing. Secondly, the most important thing product and acute health point of view is frankly, the temperature of the water. Um, you know, Even when it's a lovely summer day, you know, it could be 25, 30 degrees in Vancouver or Colin or wherever you are.

The water temperature will be less than that. Um, and you know, weather, uh, here in the Oakenoggen, I mean, we've had an exceptional summer here, of course, but most of the time, no 22. What we mostly expect is being about as good as it gets, but even at 22, that's still 15 degrees colder than your body temperature.

And so you can still become hypothermic, uh, at 22 degrees of water temperature because when your core temperature drops below 35, Yes. That's the beginning of hypothermia and that's that's, you can see how being in 22 degree water. It might take you a while. It depends on your installation and whether or not you're wearing a wetsuit and how much you're moving, all those types of things.

But that said, uh, you have to be aware of that. And the colder, the water is. The more, that's a concern. And of course the more likely you need to wear a wetsuit and maybe full sleeve wetsuit. And then you're talking about silicone as opposed to latex caps and maybe even double capping. And then of course, even adding a neoprene cap to all of those things.

So each of these are progressive steps of staying contained and understanding your water temperature. And as you swim a lot, you will start to know. What you specifically can tolerate and for how long, like when I go into water, that's 15 degrees Celsius. I'm going, you know what, that's about the bottom end of my comfort zone, as it gets colder than that, it starts to hurt title.

Particularly love it anymore. I like the challenge of it, but I also say, you know, I'm going to limit my water exposure to 30 minutes or something as opposed to in the mid summer. Oh yeah. I'm going to go for an hour and a half swim or two hours or something. Yeah, brilliant. All very good points and things that, uh, you know, certainly from your experience you would know and, you know, we'll make sure we highlight these as we put together the transcript and the show notes, um, from this particular episode, um, well, you know, like this has been fantastic, mark you've imparted.

Uh, a wealth of information. Um, any final words for, uh, you know, people getting into the open water experience or unexperienced, just final thoughts. Well, um, you know, as you mentioned earlier, the idea that this summer has, or last summer particularly has been sort of a watershed year. Pun intended that, um, has actually allowed more and more people that consider swimming open water, as you say, because pools were closing and, and you know, this is the way it used to be.

You know, like if, if this was 50 years ago before every community had their own community pool, um, people would swim in open water. That's where they would actually learn to swim. And, and th th th the experience was sort of less controlled. And I think initially we've always wanted to gravitate towards something that was safer and more secure, which was the pool.

But now we actually want to almost get away from that for a couple of things. And, um, like I said, I mean, Shinran, Yoku, I mean, whether you're out in the forest or you're out in water, um, since more of us than not tend to be stressed, we tend to have stressful environment. No busy lives, work responsibilities, mortgages to pay blah, blah, blah.

I think it becomes really important to make sure that you are spelling yourself off by giving yourself some quality time where you can truly unhook from your life on a regular basis. And as I say, get into the forest once, twice a week and get into the open water once or twice a week, if you can, you know, obviously in Canada, we're kind of limited to how long we can do that, but, uh, probably in most places, since most of us live within a hundred miles of the U S border.

We're all sort of in a, in a sort of strip of latitude where we can probably enjoy open water swimming for close to six months of the year, may through September. Sometime. I usually try to get swimming into October and wait for the first bad day, and then I give it up and then come the, uh, the spring. It depends on how the spring is going, but I'm usually in the water in may and I have been in earlier.

Um, but I can't say I loved it. It's. Painful, but nonetheless, it's sort of one of those things that, okay, how do I get through this? And like, okay, I'm just going to ease my way into it. I'm going to adapt as I can. And yes, this is painful, but I still have to focus on what I need to focus on controlling my breathing and all that kind of stuff.

And so swimming is easy. It's cheap. It's something that anybody can do, or you can do it for a lifetime and it has greater benefits than just the pure physical fitness part of it. I think it has. Least is important, is effective on mental wellbeing. And that's why I think it's one of the best sports.

Brilliant. So let's finish off by just talking about the origins of the across the lake swim. Cause I think it fits real nice with what you just said in terms of what life was like 50 years ago. So the aura, like the origins of the across the lake swim are literal intrusive. Yeah. So, you know, back in, you know, and I wasn't around them, but the, the across the lake swim, um, has been around in various forms for almost a century.

And it became more or less formalized as a regular annual event, I think in 1949, which obviously predates me. But that said back then, Know, Kelowna was a small community. It had 10,000 people, it was a fruit growing area, and most people lived either right on the lake or very close to it. The lake was the recreation site and people would be water skiers or.

Uh, back then there was an, uh, a tower dive that you could actually become good at. And, uh, and of course there was a handful of kids that were learning how to swim. And there was a place called the Columbia aquatic center, which happened to be an outdoor pool sort of fashion in, in the lake. It was just a whole bunch of basically a log boom, surrounded by the acts, if you will.

And they actually even had a tower dive there. Anyway, the point was that, you know, w when you think about it, if you could try and transpose yourself, Era, you know, and if you're a parent with young kids, you know, yes, you'd be at the lake on a nice hot day and the kids would be splashing in the lake, but you could never really totally relaxed because you're always sort of looking at where the kids are and, and are they okay?

Are they safe? And so one of the things that happened was, um, the across the lake swim was actually born. Out of, um, one of the smallest swim clubs that was the, the Testament of the swimming lessons was if you can swim across the lake, then we will consider you a competent swimmer and we can now stop worrying about you.

So in many ways it was. A Rite of passage, if you will. It was sort of not quite like going from a child to an adult, but having the responsibility, if you will, of being a competent swimmer. And back in those days, you know, there would be eight or 10 or 12 kids trying to swim across the lake. And somewhere in August, if you will, what was considered the warmest day of the year?

And they would have their dad in a rowboat, you know, a sort of right beside them kind of going hang in there, kid. And back in those days, there wasn't wetsuits or even goggles and stuff. These, these kids were doing it right. And, uh, you know, like no one really cared about the time either. And, uh, these kids would swim and sometimes the winds would chop up and it'd be a tough swim, you know?

And, uh, these little bikers, you know, they were 10 and 12 years old, 14 years old. And, uh, if they swim across the lake, you know what mom and dad stopped worrying about them. And now they could sit at the side of the lake. Yeah, with their friends and yeah, the kids are out swimming and who cares? They're good.

You know, so it, it was a Rite of passage. And, uh, and so for the longest time, this was really about kids, but, uh, since that time and with the growth of the across lake swim is much more than just about kids. It's it's families, it's adults, and, you know, people like me who learned how to swim as an adult, it's still a Rite of passage and it's still just as meaningful, if not more.

So for adults to actually get over this amazing hump. Being competent enough to swim across the lake. Well, that's brilliant. That's, that's a great story. Great explanation, explanation, excuse me. And, uh, anyways, you know, fantastic time and I really enjoyed this market. Like you've shared a ton of information.

It's always great to talk to you. You can feel the passion kind of oozing out of you as you talk. So, um, no, no across lakes from this year, at least not as traditional format, hopefully in 2020. Yeah, I I'm, I'm almost certain that 20, 22 it'll be back. It'll be hard to say what it looked like. You know, obviously, you know, these last year and a half or so is, has shaken everything to its core.

And, uh, we, we, we weren't able to organize it even though, you know, Various sort of restrictions or lifting you, it's still just in the process. And, uh, you know, when you, when you create an event that has a thousand swimmers in it, um, you need several months of lead time to basically make sure that everything is, if all the ducks are in a row in a sense of safety and all that kind of stuff.

So we, we just couldn't. In all good faith. You sort of go for it and organize this starting in April or something, not knowing whether or not we were going to sort of have to rescind all the, all the orders and everything else. So, um, yeah, next year, next year has gotta be a better year. Um, whether it winds up being smaller or more spread out or, um, who's to say, I don't know, but, uh, th there's still a fairly.

A tight group of people who are still passionate about open water swimming in the event in particular. So we'll see how, how it plays out, but, uh, you know, keep, keep your eye on the across lake swim.com website. Um, it'll tell you the latest sounds good. And get yourself a swim buddy. Yeah, there you go.

Well, mark, thanks a lot for your time today. Really appreciate it. Um, look forward to connecting again soon. Pleasure, Jason, anytime. Thanks for tuning in. If you'd like the content that we've been creating, make sure you check it out here.


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