They call themselves the Bold and the Beautiful, a group of hundreds of swimmers who gather every morning on Manly Beach in a small Australian coastal town near Sydney. Every member wears a hot pink cap and swims 750 meters to the neighboring beach of Shelly, and back again. For hours starting at 7 a.m., a sea of pink bobbing heads of all genders and ages, arching arms, and flutter kicks can be seen moving like a school of fish, stride by stride, across waves and around rocks and jagged bends.
“I wish I could join them,” I whispered to my host during a recent vacation Down Under, “But I’m scared I won’t be able to finish.” “That’s not the point,” she responded, repeating the words a ranger said to her when she, too, was moved to join the squad two years back: “‘It’s about breathing,’ he said. ‘And not dying.’”
It’s a good lesson—breathe, don’t die—for life as well as for swimming. I’d know. For at 31-years old, I had just graduated from one term of introductory swim class at Asphalt Green, a neighborhood nonprofit sports, swim, and fitness organization with a 25-yard lap pool next door to my office in Lower Manhattan. I signed up for a private class in hopes of deflating my fear of water, and of drowning in it or being eaten by an animal in it, strange phobias picked up along the route to adulthood.
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