The Motivations Behind The Kate Adventure Swim

The Motivations Behind The Kate Adventure Swim

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, U.S.A. Kate Greene of Tennessee won the 2011 Adventure Swim Contest for her planned adventure swim from the east coast of American, starting in Tennessee to the west coast, ending in California

There were a variety of motivations and inspirations behind her original application to the contest and her decisions about the logistics and venues of the Kate Adventure Swim, a series of individual swims across America.

She explains eloquently why:

I want to know what it feels like to do something new, something difficult and, more often than not, something scary.

In the summer of 2009, I left a stable job as an editor at a technology magazine in San Francisco. The long hours, stress, and chronic desk sitting had wrecked my mental, physical and spiritual health. Inspired by those 1980’s movies where professional women traded their shoulder-padded blazers for a swim suit to log rejuvenating laps in a pool, I turned to swimming. [After watching] every YouTube video I could find on technique, my body seemed to relax and lengthen. My stroke and breathing found a rhythm. I finally felt some speed. I quickly became addicted to my steady progress in the pool. For months, I reveled in the joy that swimming and my improvement brought me. Cliche as it may sound, I’d feel the weight of the world lift off my shoulders as I slipped in the water.

Soon swimming in the San Francisco public pools felt monotonous. So I started to look for an alternative. Aquatic Park is a protected cove at the northern edge of the city known for year-round swimming and sea-lion spotting. It was something new and different and scary. I fell in love with the scenery, the elbow room, and the water’s chill. It felt like the sort of awakening a runner might have if she were let loose on a trail in the Redwoods when she had only ever known the treadmill in a dreary gym. I could feel a passion for open water swimming taking hold.

The thing I love about open water swimming is the intimacy a swimmer shares with her surroundings. Each body of water feels different. The high-altitude fresh water of Lake McDonald had a cold, sharp bite that startled me after months in the weighty salt water of the Bay. I swam Walden on a windy, overcast day in early spring, which made the normally calm and inviting waters dark and choppy. The Tennessee River was bathwater warm and surprisingly current-free on the day of the swim. The Chattanooga scenery was gorgeous: green trees lined the banks and exquisite wrought-iron and steel bridges crossed overhead. I’m fascinated by the way I can know a place by swimming in its water. But on this trip, I want to supplement my swims with research on each body’s history, ecology, and surrounding culture. How do different regions regulate water use? What does the water mean to athletes, fishermen, park rangers, farmers, life guards, activists, politicians and business people? In this adventure, swimming is a means to an end. I want to use my love of open water swimming to explore our country’s complicated relationship with water.

To me, adventure means charting new territory and exploring the unknown. While I love open water swimming, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t terrify me. Each time I start to crawl across a new body of water, my heart races, I see phantom sea monsters in the deep water below, and I worry that one false breath will send me down to join them. Open water swimming forces me to moderate my fears, to go outside myself while trusting my body to do its job.

It’s like nothing else I do. Each new swim will expand my understanding of water, allow me to meet new people, and give me another opportunity to push through my fears. All of these factors make this cross-country swim the ultimate adventure for me

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones