Written by: Dana Jaworski
The Spit features the longest land based road into ocean waters in the entire world, taking up 10–15 minutes to cover by car. At the end of the road, I looked across at the beautiful cove just four miles away and thought about how I wanted to swim to the other side. A few years and a few babies later, I began open water swimming.
As a frequent lap swimmer at the local high school pool, I recall the startling first day of open water training. My wet suit felt like a giant, tightly stretched rubber band wrapped around my arms and legs. I had borrowed a friend’s scuba gloves, which quickly filled with water and then became like soggy pot holders strapped to my wrists. I didn’t have any booties and only wore a single cap. I had somehow convinced two of my friends to join me on this adventure and our goal was to be the 7 th , 8 th , and 9 th swimmers to cross the Kachemak Bay and land near the Grewingk glacier. Many people thought we were crazy, but I knew I loved to swim and wanted the freedom found in the ocean. I had to at least try ocean swimming.
That first day the bay was turbid, and there was a slight chop. I remember plunging my
face into the 45* water and it felt like pins and needles all over my neck, cheeks, and ears. My tongue and lips quickly grew numb and I couldn’t handle swimming with the gloves. I
unstrapped them and stuffed them into my friend’s wet suit. My hands and feet felt dead, but at least my kick and the catch of my pull were unencumbered. We only swam 20 minutes out and back.
Looking back on that first training day, I laugh at how difficult that initial swim felt.
Thankfully, I gave it another shot and tried again. Open water swimming is a liberating and
surprising adventure. There are days that the water is crystal clear and the ebb and flow of the tide caresses bright green and red algae below as we swim overhead. Crabs and flounders scuttle away and we are visited by majestic loons that call to one another. Occasionally we are escorted by otters or curious harbor seals. We have even swum under rainbows as gentle rain fell. Ethereal moon jellies and ctenophores pulse just out of reach and entertain as your underwater pull disrupts their gentle flow. The sunrises paint beautiful golden tones on the snowcapped mountains that jut out around the bay. All of these reasons are why I keep coming back. Open water swimming holds both beauty and pain. It is in this union that I can see most clearly into my heart and mind.
While my gear has greatly improved, and the years have passed with miles and miles
swam along the spit and even across the bay, there are still times I have moments like that first day. The weather and tide can change in an instant. Murkiness can keep your field of vision severely limited and the if the sun is in your eyes, hazards like chunks of wood and debris are difficult to avoid. Time worn and ocean patinaed, the ancient support structure of a pre-’64 earthquake pier stand guard as lonely sentinels along the spit. At low tide, you can easily spot the line of decaying wood posts. At high tide these timbers can lie just below the surface of the water. One day I swam headfirst into one of the biggest supports. My car was a mile back and my swim partner was about 10 yards ahead of me, having easily swam around the post. As I held my throbbing head, tears filled my goggles. I wondered how on earth in all this ocean did I swim so hard into this obstacle? My only option was to keep going to our awaiting vehicle another mile away.
Many times this is our same opportunity as believers. We can easily forget to enjoy the
journey set before us and it takes a challenging obstacle and sometimes even painful
consequences for us to look up. Discipline has more than one meaning…sometimes the Lord’s discipline is his encouraging whisper of, “I know it hurts, but you can do it anyway.” It is in the striving through these difficult times that true healing can occur.
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your week knees, and make straight
paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”