Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ama, the Pearl Diving Mermaid of Japan

I've always marveled at tales of the Ama, the Japanese women who specialized in diving for shellfish.  These fascinating women swam pretty much naked and were able to make a living and gain independence, mainly due to their superior ability to tolerate cold and to hold their breath for long periods of time.  Found a fascinating blog with pictures of these beautiful women here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The space beneath

Ever since 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I've wondered what has crossed the mind of every open water swimmer: what lies beneath.

Not that Coney Island is the deep sea.  The first CIBBOWS years didn't prevent us from telling our own salty tales about the giant squid.

Bonaire they take the Kraken quite seriously, as a Dutch protectorate.  I had a lot of time during a long swim to thing too long about it. It seems now we are getting some answers.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Harbor Chart of Coney Island Brighton Beach

For the swimmers who may want a closer look at the course outline chart background, and the surrounding areas, you can view the chart interactively at -from kayaker maestro Terry O'Malley

Breezy Point to Coney Island Members Swim

   From Lesa Wetsuit:
As a young girl my friends and I would look out the window and
pretend Breezy Point was England where we could meet the Queen.
    After four decades of gazing out at breezy point, the day finally came when I could step foot upon that shore and swim home to Coney Island!
  Lucky number 13, my neon yellow buoy, was tied safely to my wetsuit as I swam towards the first rubber motor boat in front of the aquarium.  We rode this boat to a magnificent larger boat,and shared our dreams about swimming as we drifted toward Breezy Point.  We jumped off near shore for a beach start.  As I started to swim I looked up and saw yellow buoys and brightly colored kayaks dancing upon silver waves.  An enchanted garden blossomed in the sea.  I even had my own personal kayaker, Larry, to guide me on my adventure.  I swam straight across towards Manhattan Beach, but the currents were pushing us towards Brighton Beach.  Larry reassured me that we did not have to circle the buoy near Manhattan Beach, and we continued straight to the White Building.  Memories of the Triple Dip swirled in my head as I swam along the rocks between Manhattan and Brighton Beach.  The current was in our favor all the way back to the aquarium.  I was able to relax and reflect on the four decades I spent on the shore facing Breezy Point.
Coney Island avenue brings thoughts of the old Brighton Beach Baths, my first lifeguard assignment at the shack, and my new home at Oceana. When I float by Brighton 6 th I reflect on my career as a teacher.  When I see the Tatianna restaurant I remember my proposal and wedding. Then comes our famous Grimaldo's chair, and all the lovely memories of his smile.  When I reach the jetty on West 5th street, I can see the building where I grew up, and that window where I first gazed upon Breezy Point.
    The water was beautiful and I did not even want to exit at the aquarium....but then I thought of the frozen margaritas at time!  Two magical hours in the ocean of aqueous bliss made my dream come true!! Thank you CIBBOWS!!!     -Lesa Schwartz

Photo links from yesterday's member swim from Capri, Tom, Paul 

Capri's video of the End of Season Party

Friday, September 27, 2013

CIBBOWS Making History

New York City resident Alan J. Morrison will attempt to swim the 10 miles from Sandy Hook, N.J. to Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn on Sunday, September 29, to emulate an historic journey completed 134 years ago.

On August 13, 1879, Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim across the English Channel, swam from Sandy Hook to Manhattan Beach in just over eight hours. Morrison, 51, hopes to beat that time while swimming the course as Webb did -- entirely by breast stroke. 

Morrison has done this before. On August 10, Morrison completed the 17-mile Rose Pitonof Swim from Kips Bay, Manhattan, to the Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island, using the breast stroke and setting a new course record for that stroke of six hours and 29 minutes.

An attorney by profession, Morrison has completed numerous other distance swims including a 12.4-mile swim across the Santa Barbara Channel and a 24-mile swim across Tampa Bay.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Inspring and thought-provoking tale from the English Channel

Many thanks to those who wished me well pre and post my English Channel attempt. After some doses of Benedryl I’m feeling fine today. I always hoped when the day came for my first DNF that I’d handle it well, and I think I am. First, I honestly feel mentally and physically great and feel nothing but gratitude for Bob’s call. I’m blessed with not just a perfect hubby, but a solid reliable crew support. My entire experience has been nothing but great since I arrived in England. I’ve met so many wonderful people, swimmers and non swimmers. I’m leaving with new friends, and the knowledge that my new approach to mental and physical training did me well. I was feeling nothing but pure bliss for my entire swim, and I just felt so strong and positive. One of the last words spoken to me on shore by another channel swimmer observing for a relay team stuck in my mind – just relax and enjoy your channel experience. I did just that. When my observer looked at me with a WTF look on his face and said the water is 11. Bob nicely translated to – it is 51-52. I recall shaking my head no because I thought he was kidding. One toe hit the water and I said oh, wow he is serious. I stayed positive and let my body embrace the temp as I swam to shore to start thinking ah, mental training is paying off! I spent a lot of effort on cold water acclimation and felt confident. I started feeling fine, and embraced the temps by going out faster than normal. After that I could feel it get warmer, thrilled I was under 20 sec on feedings and peeing between feedings – my body was fine. I felt stronger than ever with boundless energy- even my tapering was paying off. I saw a few jellies early on under me and took in their beauty and reflected back on my first 2008 one mile ocean swim where I was freaked by the ocean and closed my eyes until the lifeguard startled me when he told me I was going in the wrong direction. I felt so thrilled I was now swimming over them, admiring them. I wasn’t worried about a sting at all. I was stung in Tampa so I knew it would hurt but I’d get through it. You learn something from each challenge to apply to the next. I saw few more and fine again. I couldn’t believe how awesome it was swimming in the channel, and how fast time was going between feedings – a sign of pure bliss. I last remember swimming through what seemed like endless jellies and thinking wow, so many and so cool. I felt the stings and said wow, not as bad as Tampa, must be cuz I’m numb from cold. I swam on and then suddenly I felt drugged, then left side of my body was doing its own thing and I recall trying to focus to swim through it but was really disoriented. I heard Bob’s voice and from that point I really thought I was chatting with them, but Bob said nope, unresponsive. In my mind I was swimming through it, but his vision had me not even rolling my head to breathe. It really wasn’t a bad experience for me since I was in la la land, but I’m sure I stressed poor Bob out and for that I’m sorry. He’s done nothing but support my goals 100%, and unfortunately he had to make a decision that I’m sure is hard for any crew to make. While this didn’t go as I hoped, I am really feeling good, strong and healthy today. I’ll now focus on my other work, swim and life commitments in the coming months and continue my English Channel training for a hopeful slot in 2014 season. Thanks again to all for their support. I really am leaving healthy, injury free, and content. I came here with no other ‘next’ swim planned because I said anything can happen, and I want to focus on the channel until I hit France and I plan to keep my word:)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Than a Relay, Not Quite a Solo, Sandy Hook to Coney Island EPIC Test Swim with CIBBOWS

October 20th, 2012
Foghorns bellow as my alarm sounds.  It is still dark.  I wonder if we will be permitted to swim with the thick soup that lay outside my window.  I make my way to the aquarium where we meet with the rest of the CIBBOWS crew.  Melinda sounds like she has a frog stuck in her throat, and Jim cancelled --home sick.  I have been wavering between doing a solo or a relay, wanting something in between, but chose to go with the flow depending on what worked for the other swimmers.  Relay it would be--Melinda, Jay, Capri and myself.  MelissaMo, the least experienced of our crew, would be the only soloist.  We wade out to load Agent Orange as David tries to navigate the waves.  We're all soaked before we start.

We bounce as chop gives way to waves towards Sandy Hook through lifting fog, but as we arrive the surf is too dangerous for a beach start.  We scramble to spread ourselves and our gear in the various support boats.  MelissaMo, Melinda and Jay begin in the water while Capri and I wait our turn.  Romer Shoals lay in the distance, and the whitecaps look huge.  

 After an hour,  it was time for the relays to switch.  Cold, Melinda was ready for a break.  I could tell Jay did not want to get out, but it was my turn and I was itching to get in.  Capri and I plunge in at Romer Shoals, joining MelissaMo, who's struggling a bit.  I am feeling wonderful, so light, like a butterfly. This is going to be my day.  The waves are big.  Very big.  They were so big (and it's rather shallow) the boats are unable to follow us, so we swim through the madness accompanied only by our kayakers. At first it doesn't really occur to me how gigantic they are, but I notice my kayaker, maestro Richard Clifford, maneuvering hard to stay afloat.  These are massive rollers.  I  have a strange sensation in my stomach, like when you are on a roller coaster and it drops.  Which is exactly what we are swimming in--a roller coaster of 15 to 20' waves.  After an hour of the epic ride of a lifetime, we hit the Ambrose Channel, the busiest shipping channel in the world.  It is lined with tankers as far as the eye could see.  As we wait for three huge monsters to pass, the Coast Guard decides it was unsafe to swim cross,  so we will be boated to the other side.  I seize the opportunity to chow a sandwich and spicy tea, which I share with Capri.  We are starting to get cold as we wait for one enormous ship after another to pass, looking for an opening to dart to the other side.

Seasickness began to take its toll.  Later I found out the details--Rondi was lying over the side of Agent Orange.   Memo was done.  Melinda was laying on the bottom of her boat in the fetal position, and Jay was not feeling so hot now either.  I try to convince him he'll feel better in the drink than on the boat.  Now we had more kayakers/boats than swimmers, so I feel the need to represent.   CIBBOWS is not going down like that!  I turn Jay and Capri, shouting "let's do this-solo it-all the way!".  I receive skeptical looks.  Jay looks a little green.  David asks over the radio "is anyone going to get back in the water?  Or what?"   Capri and I plunge back in; as Jay struggles to get back in his cheaters I tease him for being a slow poke (he is the fastest of our group, but wearing wetsuit bottoms).   The water is about 59F, and re-entry is bracing, but I soon get used to it.  I feel good in the water.... one of those rare days when all the stars align and you are one with the ocean...and swim a strong, steady pace.  I stop a few times for gu and water along the way, as the Romer Shoals lighthouse began to fade behind me.  Nothing but the waves the sun as it moves across the sky.

Hours pass, then the parachute jump.  I fist pump and the boat cheers.  Little did I know I still had 3 miles to go?  The crew keeps me in my ignorant bliss, giggling to themselves.  I'm not one of those swimmers who ask how far I've gone or how long I've been swimming--I don't really want to dwell on those kinds of details.  For me, it's better not to know.  I have already spotted Jay and Capri on the boat, they've been hopping in and out, and I realize I'm the only one left who's going the entire distance.   Igor's words float in my head--"you only think you're tired"--as I push forward.  Melinda, feeling better, joins me on the home stretch, pulling ahead.  Coney Island Baby is following us, as well as NYPD Harbor Patrol, who stays busy keeping errant boats from our path.  MelissaMo is still hurling from the bow of the boat, and I make a mental note to school her on crew etiquette.  Vomiting should be done from the stern, not the bow please.   I pick up my pace to get ahead of the boat.  Margarethe, my kayaker since the Ambrose, smiles encouragingly.

I ask for hot tea, and my crew tries to give Margarethe my huge thermos.  She capsizes, and when she doesn't come up right away I sprint to her assist.  She has to do an escape, so now she's soaking.  The first mate Lovely Lenny (dressed in a dry suit) springs into action, and dives to her rescue.  Que hombre.  I wonder later if he took off his fake hair before he jumped in the water. (He's rocking a Rod Stewart wig/hat this week, change of pace from the Rasta look of last weekend).  I tease her that she was just trying to see what I was dealing with, cold water-wise, but I am worried for her, now exposed to the elements.  While they pump out her kayak, I have my ginger spice tea, and offer her some. They give her a dry hat and scarf and we're back on our way.   Next feed, the crew puts my warm tea in an empty bottle and tosses it to me.   It comes at me like speeding missile from the sky--Eileen has an arm like a professional baseball player.  Margarethe has a spare carbo pro gel, which I gratefully accept, not having packed my liquid feed.  I'm starting to feel heavy and tired, and my shoulder starts to twinge, but I can make out the beams of the pier, I know I'm so close, so I keep plugging away. 

About a mile to go the right shoulder starts to hurt badly, but I can see a small crowd of people waiting for my finish.  No stopping now, I have to figure out how to swim through the pain.   Adjusting my stroke, I focus on relaxing my shoulder and throwing my recovery arm from the remaining strength of my lats. I tell myself to suck it up--this is what you get for being lax on the pool training.  Out of my peripheral vision, I see I am about to cross the outer edge of the pier.   Almost home!  Legs go into high gear and I sprint, spraying the water behind me as Margarethe smiles in approval at my burst of energy.  (I'm sure she's ready to finish too--dry clothes await.)  It's longer than it seems.   I'm completely out of breath as I finally touch ground, but I made it!  I'm home! My CIBBOWS peeps cheer me as I emerge from the sea. It is magical, swimming home to my training grounds.   Returning to the womb.  I feel so bad ass.  Four hours and 15minutes.  EPIC!!
Ready to launch-Coney at dawn
Capri tests the water temp
Romer Shoals.  Somehow Melinda managed to get this shot of Capri's foot at the crest of a wave, where you can just see the mast of a 20' ship peeking behind, while projectile vomiting.  Talk about multi-tasking.
Tea on the Ambrose

My Triumphant Finish