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!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sea Changes

Dear West Neck Pod: I wish you all (and apologize for) a very belated "welcome" to the 2017 open-water swimming season. As you know the season got off to a slow start when, first, Mother Nature pelted our area with a seemingly endless series of torrential-and-potentially-toxic-runoff-generating Springtime rainstorms and, second, the Town of Huntington suddenly altered its long-standing practice of early-morning beach openings, and swimmers arriving at West Neck Beach for their morning swims inexplicably found the gates still lowered and locked. Numerous emails, phone calls, and in-person visits to Town Hall by distraught and angry Pod members were successful in turning the tide, and, thanks to your efforts, the gates to West Neck Beach are now open every morning at 6:00! (and the resultant flurry of ticketing of cars without Town of Huntington beach parking permits before the beach "officially" opens appears to have abated).

But Town enforcement policies and practices aside, I’m sure you all have noted some subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the West Neck Pod. One such obvious change is in the Pod’s leadership, which, informal though it is, has been largely informed and coordinated by the emails, Facebook posts, and "Water-Blog" blogposts of my alter ego, the "Fairy Pod-Mother." Recent sea changes in my personal life have compelled me to shift my attention and energy in other directions, and you may have noticed that my blogposts have become almost nonexistent, and my emails and Facebook posts less frequent. This season, my physical presence for West Neck Pod group swims has been sporadic, in part because I have found a new heart-home upstate where I have been spending most of my weekends, and to which I hope to retire someday – although "Chatham" is maddeningly land-locked. Until then, I am still swimming with my fellow Pod members on weekday mornings and one weekend a month, and you will see me in the Salt as often as I am able get myself there! I am confident that our Pod-elders will swim up to fill any void created by the absence of the Fairy Pod-Mother and to ensure that open-water swimming is as safe and accessible as we have made it for each other for all the years that the West Neck Pod has plied the waters of Cold Spring Harbor and Long Island Sound (and here I tip my swim cap to our founding Pod-father, Rob Martell!).

Indeed, our West Neck Pod adventures in the Salt have made West Neck Beach synonymous with open-water swimming, and our home beach has become a mecca for "newbies" to the open water, as well as for recreational swimmers, competitive swimmers and triathletes from both near and far, all of whom have embraced and been embraced by our inclusive membership requirement, which is, simply, if you swim with the Pod, you’re a member of the Pod! There are no dues, no fees, no requirements other than that you listen to the acquired wisdom of the Pod elders, who are knowledgeable about water conditions, tides, wind speed and direction, boat traffic, swim courses, "floaty bags" and other factors that affect our safety and well-being "out there."

One consequence of this increased visibility and recognition of the West Neck Pod is that the need and impetus for group swims seems to have diminished somewhat, as more and more little Podlets form whose members cherry-pick the dates, times and buddies for their swims, so that now, virtually anytime you come down to West Neck Beach you will see open-water swimmers "out there" beyond the swim lines. I think this evolution is a good thing – and a reflection of what occurs in nature, among the whales and dolphins whose extended "pod" families gave our open-water swimming group its name so many years ago.

Official group swims continue, though – with posted group-swim times on Friday/Saturday/Sunday mornings at 8:00 (and I am advised that the newly reconstituted "Pokey-Pod" has been swimming regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:45 a.m. if that’s more your speed). As for other dates and times, rely on your fellow Pod-members to post their swims on the West Neck Pod Facebook page, and please welcome others to join your own "Podlet" swims.

One of the things that has suffered as I transit between upstate and downstate is my role as Captain of "Team West Neck Pod’s" Swim Across America. For the first time in my many years of participating in this event, to date I have done no recruiting for the Team, and no fundraising – although the Swim is less than a week away. Ironically, it was the death of my dear friend Karin Ralph from lung cancer earlier this year that stunned and immobilized me – and it was not until her July 8th memorial service on the day of what would have been her 72nd birthday that I reconnected with my commitment to the fight against cancer. And so I will be swimming on Saturday, August 5th, with my amazing teammates Lider Raynor (who is swimming his first 10K!), and cancer survivor Bonnie Millen, and whoever else reading this is inspired to join us, last-minute though it may be. Our staunch teammate Merry Lewin, alas, is down for the count with a torn meniscus and will not be in swimming shape by August 5th, and I have been plagued with back problems that make my usual 5K unthinkable now, so I will be swimming the one-mile event this year. I know that I will be joined in spirit by Karin, who introduced me to beautiful Makamah Beach on Long Island Sound, and with whom I swam there, side by side, more times than I can count. I swim, also, in honor and in memory of the (too) many cancer survivors and victims whose names adorn my pink "floaty-bag," and whose courage and spirits will again carry me through my "Swim Across America."

To join Team West Neck Pod (I hope you will), or to support my swim (or that of your fellow Pod-mates), follow this link: http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/NassauSuffolk?team_id=18972&pg=team&fr_id=4365

And if you’re not able to participate in this year’s Swim Across America, Pod-member Evelyn Cruise, Volunteer Coordinator for the "West Neck Swim," is looking for additional volunteers to help with this year’s swim, which is scheduled to be held at West Neck Beach on Sunday, August 6th. If you can help, please reach out to Evelyn at evelyn.cruise@gmail.com or westneckswimvolunteers@gmail.com.

It has been an unutterable joy to help weave the threads that collected this motley crew of swimmers into the beautiful fabric that is the West Neck Pod. I love all of you, and what we have created together. Please take care of it, and each other. See you in the Salt.

Love, Carol (Fairy Pod-Mother Emeritus)

P.S.: I’m attaching a link to a blogpost I wrote seven years ago about my love for open-water swimming, which some of may remember and others may never have seen. It is all still true for me. See you in church. http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/2010/08/open-water-swimming-love-story_09.html