Open Water Swimming Opens Up New Horizons

Open Water Swimming Opens Up New Horizons

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Adam Walker needed a change. Seven years ago, the former British water polo player found himself selling toasters and kettles. Deep down inside, Walker knew that life was more than meeting sales quotas for kitchen appliances.

A swim across the English Channel and then subsequent swims across the Strait of Gibraltar, Molokai Channel, Tsugaru Channel, Cook Strait, Catalina Channel and North Channel enabled him to transform his career. As he shifted from sales calls to logistical planning, his dreams both on land and in the water became larger, more audacious and more global. From a domestic focus to an international perspective, Walker completely re-invented himself.

The toaster salesman went from pushing tin to a more fulfilling role of an adventurer, motivational speaker and coach. He went from reporting to a boss in an office to standing on the shores in Africa, the Mediterranean and in Great Britain enabling other athletes to also realize their dreams in the open water.

Open water swimming can do that for people. Of all ages.

The renowned Vicki Keith of Canada will soon embark on a massively long marathon relay lengthwise across Lake Ontario.

A pod of 8 athletes, including both physically disabled and able-bodied athletes, will attempt a 305 km crossing from Burlington to Kingston, Ontario along the shore of Lake Ontario from August 16th – 21st. As they swim from west to east, they will attempt to complete what has only been attempted once before.

Similar to what Walker did for himself, Keith helps people open up their minds and seek new horizons and achieve new goals.

At the Kingston Y Penguins, Keith invigorates a team of young people with physical disabilities and their able-bodied brothers and sisters. “This program was designed to help children and youth find pride and success through achievement. The Y Penguins provide an opportunity for young people to explore their abilities and find within themselves the confidence to pursue their goals and the capacity to develop the skills that will help them see the many possibilities for their future.

The Y Penguin’s goal is to teach life lessons through sport. These dedicated athletes are taking on this adventure to challenge themselves and strengthen their ability to overcome adversity.”

Keith frequently talks about big hairy audacious goals – and crossing Lake Ontario lengthwise certainly fits the bill. “I believe in BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOALS. It’s how I found my way in this world, and it’s the best way I know to teach others about abilities, determination, goal setting, overcoming obstacles and making the most out of our life.

Sure, small achievable goals may take you where you want to go, but Big Hairy Audacious Goals will set you on a path far greater than you could ever imagine. There’s a place for small, safe goals, but they can also be very restrictive. It’s scary to take a step into the dark water knowing the experts have already deemed what you are setting out to do as impossible. It’s scary to lead the way for a group of young people to step beyond the confines of what others consider normal, to achieve something extraordinary. But the results far outweigh the risks.

I believe that you should set your goals higher than others believe is possible, farther than what experts believe is feasible, beyond what you may think is probable. It’s those who reach beyond what is conscionable for others, that lead the way.

In the last 13 years, the Y Penguins have stepped beyond this line so many times that the line has become blurred. We don’t see things as possible or impossible. We see challenges, opportunities, adventures. When at the age of 52, my husband John swam the longest single crossing of Lake Ontario, others thought him too old. When Jenna Lambert swam across Lake Ontario, the experts didn’t believe some one with a disability could achieve such a humongous goal. When at the age of 14, Natalie Lambert swam across Lake Erie and Ontario, she was thought of as too young. And then we continued on. We swam, cycled and wheeled from Toronto to Ottawa in a huge triathlon event, Jenna pushed well out of her comfort zone when she swam, cycled, and wheeled from Belleville to Ottawa solo. And now it continues.

On August 16th, 8 athletes, their families, and our crew are heading off on another adventure. People have stopped telling us that our goals are impossible. They are starting to realize that if we set our minds to something, we will achieve it.

I can’t think of a more valuable gift to give to the young people with whom I work than the knowledge that nothing is impossible. As they head out into the world, they have this innate understanding that they can achieve anything. If a roadblock is dropped in front of them, they know it’s not permanent. If they are pushed off on a detour they will find their way back. They have learned that hard work, passion, focus and belief will help them through life

The Great Lake Adventure is in support of the Kingston YMCA Strong Kids Campaign that raises funds to help young people with disabilities continue to learn about their abilities and develop the skills to step into life with strength of spirit and confidence.

To make a donation, visit here.

To watch a television interview on Station 14 on the Great Lake Adventure team, visit here.

To follow the swimmers (13-year-old Abi Tripp, 17-year-old Nick Streicher, 17-year-old Michelle Sempowski, 17-year-old Natasha Dobson, 18-year-old Harley Bolton, 21-year-old Natalie Lambert, 23-year-old Jenna Lambert, and 53-year-old coach Vicki Keith), visit their Facebook page here.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association