On the morning of September 5th, I walked into the water at Lovers Point with the goal of swimming to Del Ray Beach. The 3.6-mile swim, and subsequent 3.8-mile surf zone trek to the fishing pier and back, took me through “the oceans biggest feeding frenzy” and I learned 6 valuable things.
1. Fear is inevitable, courage is a choice
Big Blue Live, a special mini series created by the BBC and PBS, streamed live footage from all around the Monterey Bay area in the days leading up to the swim. Whales, Seals, Sea Lions, millions of fish of all shapes and sizes, Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Great White Sharks, and a few Orcas were seen live on television playing their part in the circle of life. It was pretty eye opening to see just how much was down there with me, and more than a little nerve racking.
The show opened with the host’s referring to Monterey Bay as “the oceans biggest feeding frenzy.” It was everywhere on social media, on TV, and I found myself avoiding film crews diving in locations I normally trained. The ocean was teeming with life. It was like swimming in an aquarium and my contacts with sealife sky rocketed.
Most of the people around me thought this whole evolution was a bad idea. The harbor master said I was insane to risk crossing traffic lanes and to swim right past a seal pupping ground. He said he had seen several people “try, and fail at that route,” before washing his hands of the whole thing warning us about heavy sightseeing boat traffic, vicious currents, and sea predators.
My community was worried, my family was worried, hell, even the event team was a little worried. You could sense the anticipation in the air as the event team began to roll into town.
2. It’s not as bad as it looks
I challenged myself with a goal I knew would be dangerous.
I believed I could do it.
It wasn’t so bad at the midway point. It got harder from there, but I kept moving forward.
knew I could do it.
3. Discipline makes or breaks the evolution
When this event first started coming together, it seemed impossible to get from where I was athletically to being capable of swimming 7.4 miles in a single day with out discipline. Patience was required early on in the process to ease into training to avoid injury. I wanted to start off hot and heavy, but my education has taught me that that leads to injury. To accomplish this goal required commitment todo things in line with said goal, like prioritizing sleep and nutrition. It required resilience to manage external factors and push through discomfort for the sake of people other then myself. After all, I am not at war, no one tried to kill me today, life is grand. An attitude of gratitude can carry you through rough patches.
4. It’s always better with friends and family
Selfish victories have empty mead hall celebrations. The term self made man is a misnomer, this never would have been possible with out the help of my amazing support crew. This amazing collection of people was made up of friends, athletes, and fellow service members who selflessly gave up their time and comfort to make sure I came home in one piece. They helped carry the logistical load, piloted the support crafts, provided professional medical supervision, and carried the flag in my line of sight the whole time.
Ian served with me in the United States Navy and was in charge of all the small crafts involved in the swim. His experience working with SAR swimmers during small boat operations was invaluable. Ian knew exactly what I was going to do in the water, and where he would be best suited to place the boat. He paid his own way down from Seattle to lend his support.
Joesph “Doc” Jackson (right): Medic
Joe (or “Doc”) is one of the original Apex Predator Athletics athletes, a masters swimmer, and a retired United States Navy Corpsman. He served as lead medic, and swam/surfed along next two me in the second half of the evolution. He drove up from San Diego on his own dime.
Chris Jodis: Kayak Escort
Chris is an Apex Predator Athletics coach and athlete. He has been working with me for a little over two years. Chris and I lived together during this event, and he was my daily sounding board and confidant during the preperation process. He also served as lead kayak, and comic relief through out the event.
Adam Foushee (kayak): Kayak Escort
Adam Foushee is an Apex Predator Athletics athlete and a helicopter pilot in the United States Marine Corps. He took time away from his family to paddle the kayak on my hip through out the swim. Adam was a huge champion in the battle to get the word out about what we were doing, and why. He was primarily responsible for helping me maintain 360 degree awareness in the water, as well as providing metal music when I needed a little extra kick.
Alicia “Sheesh” Pizarro : Shore Support
Sheesh is an Apex Predator Athletics athlete, and is currently serving in the United States Navy. Sheesh was one of my training partners through out my preparation and challenged me to push my limits. Her motivation and work ethic set the bar for me to meet each and every time we hit the water. “Sheesh” made sure I had calories and caffeine when ever I was on land.
Having my compatriots at my side every stroke and step kept me going in the hardest stretches of the event. They laughed, joked, shared love, and chided me with barbs to keep me hungry to eat up the mileage.
When conditions forced the boats on shore during the second half of the event, Ian and Chris carried the flag and my gear bag while Joe swam and surfed along side me. When I started cramping really bad, their cheers kept my legs pumping, and their calls carried over the crash of the surf. They took the time to explain to people on the beach what we were doing, and why. They spread the message, they made sure we all acomplished the mission. It makes me get choked up thinking about it. Hitting the midway point, and then finishing with my friends and supporters was amazing. It the kind of feeling I can not begin to describe.
Always keep laughing, no matter how hard it gets. Never stop swimming
5. I think we, as a military population (both active/reserve and veteran), don’t communicate our frustrations very well
We get outraged because we believe in the what this nation stands for, and often feel it’s abused and taken for granted. Most people think the war is over, but there are still men and women down range. There are a lot of veterans as a result of being at war for 15 years. It’s just beginning, we will live with the consequences for generations.
Most people see what major networks present and look no further. This isn’t their fault, they haven’t walked in our boots in far away lands. We as a military community still have friends and family dying out there. We must strive to create a dialogue, and coexist within this amazing country we live in. The first step is listening to each other, it gets a lot easier once that gets established.
6. I don’t have it so bad
Every night a chair sits empty, waiting for a GWOT casualty that will never come home. A generation of children will grow up with out a parent, a generation of parents have buried children long before their time. People who divide themselves forget we are all American, and its in all our best interest to get along.
We are lucky to have opportunities to stand united to regain our essence, and claim back what makes us great as a nation. We are a nation of many ethnicities creeds, sexual orientations, and political beliefs. We are a nation that has repeatedly come together to overcome adversity and the odds. We are a nation that believes in doing what is good and just, and while we may not always do it perfectly, we should always hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Let’s create the world we want to live in every day in every action.
We raised over five thousand dollars in money for gap funding for special operations families through The Red Circle Foundation, and Unitek Education has donated 6 scholarships to allow families and their children to peruse a career in lifesaving. This helps put food on the table in more ways then one. We are one big family, we are THE United States of America
Not everyone who lives is alive. Embrace the challenge.