I don’t typically swim in the ocean. I’m not sure why. Even as a kid, I didn’t go past my waist. But swimming in the ocean gets you ready for any type of open water race you do, so when Barbara Cronin-Stagnari invited me to join her at Jones Beach, I was honored.

“It’s a little rough today,” she said as I got to the beach. “The water is cold too.”

She wasn’t kidding on both accounts. The water was freezing and it was very rough. (I think she downplayed the rough part so that I wouldn’t freak out.)

I didn’t know how to enter the water. She told me to dive in. “Ummm, I don’t know how to dive!” I said.

She told me to tuck in my chin, put out my arms and go under the wave.

I dove into the waves. It didn’t look pretty but I did it. I knew I had to get out about 50 or 100 yards from the shore so that we could swim. Even as we got further into the water, the waves were at least a foot or two high. They were coming quickly. Every time I felt like I caught my breath, another wave came over my head.

Barbara showed me that it’s important to take short strokes in the water when it’s turbulent. I typically swim a long extended stroke and reach from my back, as per Roy and Maggie instructed me when I first started. So, this was different.

Twenty minutes felt like two hours, but we swam out with the current and we swam back against the current. It was rough. (I know I said the “rougher the better,” but this was ridiculous!)

After 20 minutes I was out of the water and felt relieved. I never have fear in the water but on this day, I was a little fearful.

A few days later, I called Barbara and asked if I could come out again. “It’s a bit choppy,” she said.

“Hmmm… I think I’ll go to the pool,” I told her.

“That’s a good idea,” she said, “we already pulled five people out of the water.”