Cross Channel Swim 2009
Number 63 marked my arm, identifying me as the 63rd person of 70 some people standing on Oualie Beach 7:30 Sunday morning, March 29th, 2009. Looking around at the other faces in the grey clouded morning I saw some disbelief, uncertainty, and bewilderment at what we were doing. One gentleman visiting from Antigua stood a long time above the waiver form at registration. His expression of doubt changed to resolve as he downed a bottle of water, handed in his form, and received his swim cap. Yes, he too would swim the channel. From Nevis to St. Kitts: 4km.
We waddled into Oualie Bay as the 5 min warning was given. I was standing next to a large group visiting from Antigua, including two young boys aged 11 and 8, I commended the two young boys on their bravery as they tightened their goggles and prepared for the two hours it would take them to swim the open waters.
And the whistle blew and we were off, scattering out from the safety of the bay. This is the third year I have swam this distance. The first year, Reggie Douglas. had just taught me to swim and I managed to cross the distance in nearly 3 hours of swimming. Kieth Jones, was my supporter in a kayak and encouraged me through the swells and bouts of nausea. Last year I managed the swim in an hour and half, and this year I had planned to race, to improve on that time.
I was not able to better my last year’s time, but I noticed some improvements in recovery and increased comfort being out there. An hour and half of swimming with no one in sight allows for some time of reflection. One thing I was thinking about was the low numbers of swimmers representing Nevis, especially the lack of young people taking on the challenge.
I have learned to swim since I came to Nevis, 4 years ago; trying to breathe 5 strokes under water would lead me to panic. If I could learn, migrating from Canada where I grew up with no ocean, what is stopping our young people from learning with a full access to a clean safe ocean-pool?
To the youths: you have one whole year to learn to swim. Take up the challenge, and once you swim my time or surpass it, I will treat you to dinner out. I have maintained to the young people I work with, that I owe them dinner if they beat me in a bike race, now I take that to the water as well. Maybe, as the challenge is more difficult I’ll up my incentive with a movie to St. Kitts.
Sure, its not easy, in fact, it is a little ludicrous. It being difficult makes it worthy. It’s a positive and assisted challenge; why not take advantage of something that could only prove your strength, endurance, and success? Of all those nervous faces I saw during registration in Nevis, not one held anxiety at the finish line in St. Kitts. They came in after 2, 3 hours, jubilant. They did it! They mastered it. They will know that they have conquered the distance between the two islands of one country. That confidence of a challenge succeeded does positively affect other aspects of a person’s life. I would know, it done mine. I hope next year there will be new faces of uncertainty and bewilderment: young faces - Nevis faces, at the starting line, Oualie Beach.
It would be my pleasure to take some of those faces transformed into smiles of achievement out to dinner, as I am certain now that it can and will be done.