DISCLAIMER: Open-water swimming is inherently dangerous. Open-water swimmers risk drowning, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heart attacks, panic attacks, cramping, jelly fish stings, fish bites, boat or jet-ski collisions, collisions with floating or submerged objects (including other swimmers), and other calamities that can be injurious, disabling or fatal! The "West Neck Pod" is an informal association of open-water swimmers who swim "outside the lines" with no lifeguard protection, it has no formal membership, organizational structure or legal identity, and its participants, including the author of this blog, make no representations and assume no liability with respect to its group open-water swims. All swimmers who participate in West Neck Pod group open-water swims do so at their own risk. Be careful out there!

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Thirty Days [of open-water swimming] hath September...."

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, the usually traumatic transition from August to September went relatively unnoticed by the swimmers of the West Neck Pod. Only a small group (Ken, Tim, Carole, Kathy and I) ventured into the Salt on Thursday for a short, "First of September" swim that was characterized by a shockingly littered seascape -- with the water chock-full of logs, branches, twigs, leaves and other storm washups that, as Ken described, had us constantly "picking our heads up like prairie dogs" as we swam through the debris. 
By Friday the water had cleared again, with only a few remnants of the storm still littering the harbor. Carole, Kathy, Rob Ripp, Rabbi Steve and I enjoyed a wonderfully energizing swim to the Southern Buoy, where we lingered and chatted as I snapped the inevitable photos and videos to memorialize the day. Steve (still a relative newcomer to the Pod and open-water swimming), casually commented, "You know, no offense, but the pictures on Facebook and the Blog all look pretty much the same...." His comment might have stung a little bit but for its undeniable truth. The fact is that the West Neck Pod (or some portion of it) swims the same routes, nearly every day, from the same beach, and in the same harbor, so the scenery, background and subjects tend to be much the same from day to day and week to week, and maybe even year to year. Those of us who have been swimming here year after year appreciate and rely on the constantly changing water and wind and waves and weather to keep it interesting and fresh...but sometimes a little outside perspective is a good thing....
Robb Ripp, recognizing an opportunity to "change it up" for the Pod with a new "photo-op," wasted no time in coaching Carole, Kathy and the surprisingly willing Steve in a carefully choreographed circle-dance in front of the buoy, and my video camera, which even Rabbi Steve must concede produced images never before seen out there by the Southern Buoy!
Inspired, no doubt, by the grace and beauty of Friday's performance, the 20-plus swimmers who turned out for Saturday morning's group swim were easily inveigled by Rob and his cohorts to perform a celebratory end-of-summer circle-dance around the Southern Buoy -- again captured by my video camera as evidence of the not-always-the-same exploits of the West Neck Pod!
By Sunday, when more than 30 swimmers showed up for the 8:00 swim, circle-dances by the buoy were beginning to seem old...so the Pod "changed it up" again with a first-time swim beyond the Southern buoy to the "beach before the jetty," for a two-mile round trip that exhilarated and inspired all those who participated (including Cammi and Ursula, who accompanied us on their stand-up paddleboards and helped keep us safe and on-course -- thanks, you two!).  Everyone lined up on the beach for a water-start return, which was absolutely phenomenal viewed from the water....
Monday's Labor Day swim, though well-attended, seemed almost anticlimactic, with one group opting for the usual "Buoy-to-Buoy-and-back swim" and the rest of us opting for the shorter "Buoy-lite" swim, but here the weather and wind intervened to take this swim out of the ordinary, as all were made to battle a brisk outgoing tide and howling southerly wind that stirred up a sizeable wave-chop.  Also memorable were the coffee, bagels, donuts and muffins we enjoyed on the beach afterwards, as well as the company of our Pod-sister Joye, still striving to heal her badly broken ankle so she can rejoin us in the Salt before this 2011 season closes....

Today's Labor Day swim also marks the completion of my 69th open-water swim of the season -- bringing me that much closer to my season's goal of 100 days of open-water swimming.  As the September air grows disturbingly crisper, I am less certain of reaching that goal -- but I celebrate and am grateful for the memory of each of those 69 days, and the subtle nuances that make each of them unique and different -- even if those endless photographs and videos don't show it...

See you in the Salt!


  1. The water was rough this morning and the swim was challenging and fun; what's even more challenging was I locked my car key in the car while I was changing my cloth after my run. I had to wait till almost 12pm for my friend, Todd, went from where he was (Syosset) to my apartment (Forest Hills, Queens) to grab my spare key and came back to WNB to save me.
    And thank you Eric for letting me use your cell!

  2. Woke up with vertigo yesterday and missed the swim to new horizons which was kind of heartbreaking. Then missed any notice of a swim this a.m. so figured you all decided to take memorial day off. Should have known better. Luckily, Annmarie was a willing participant in an 11:30 a.m. swim out to the sailboat mooring in that same heavy chop you guys experienced. Having missed the big swim, I was adamant about doing it anyway, so an hour and twenty minutes later, we made it back to the beach house. Missed you all. Thank goodness for the recaps!

  3. not memorial day. Wishful thinking. LABOR day. Happy return to school and fall for all who can't find a way to continue to live in happy denial as I will. <3