The Shark Bait Swimmer



 

Where the mind goes, the body flows. If you can visualize your target, you're halfway there. Thinking about how to encourage my daughter is how last Sunday began.


We arrived at the dock before 1 PM. An aroma mixed with salt from the sea and nervous energy entered our bodies as we piled out of the car. With water bottles and a change of clothes, we planned to stay for a few hours.


The line stretched from the registration table on the lawn to the center of the pedestrian path. Confirmed. We are one of many courageous families in Antigua. After ten minutes, we made it to the front.


“Hello.”

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you. What’s your name?”

“This is Vizuri Lindsay.”


I spoke on her behalf. The register found her name on a list among 77 other local swimmers.


“Please, sign here.”


She picked up the pen and placed it in her left hand. “How do I sign?”


She printed two of her five initials on the rectangular space next to her name on the clipboard. Then, the register handed us two matching white t-shirts that read, “Jumby Bay Shark Bait Swim.”


Would you let your child participate in anything with indirect references to their role as prey? Although the event's organizers intended to raise funds for social and healthcare reform initiatives, I had to answer that question.

After registration, I reconsidered the decision to allow my 11-year-old to swim in an event with the words, shark bait in the title. I pictured a petite body in the clear blue water and compared it with memories from the classic film, Jaws.


She swims six days per week. She is strong. Great white sharks swim every day, all day. They are stronger. That's what my mind did to me as she left the registration table to join her friends.


A few minutes later, I silenced my anxieties and greeted several parents. We talked among ourselves about work, fitness, and children. Anything to take our attention away from the event’s risks occupied our conversations.


My wife asked, “Are you ready?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes!” She affirmed with increasing aggravation.


We were not ready. The idea of our baby swimming almost two miles in the Caribbean sea did not sit well with us.

“Zuri, see yourself making it to the other side. You can do this. I will be right behind you in a kayak." I ignored my concerns and remembered the morning's goal to encourage.


What were the ages of the swimmers? Participants ranged in age from as young as 8-years-old to over 45. In addition to a team of lifeguards and the Coastguard, volunteers like myself followed the group in kayaks.


The race started on the Jumby Bay shoreline with 77 participants, and 65 completed the 1.75-mile course. Twelve swimmers stopped before the finish line. Some grew tired, others experienced debilitating pain, but none were eaten or bitten by sharks.


My daughter did not finish first, but it was a first for our family. She swam the entire route in the middle of the pack without lifeguard assistance. After she described the race as “salty” to the group of spectators, one of my boys announced his plans to follow in her fins for next year's event.


I am also considering joining them in the water and abandoning the support team. Fitness challenges excite me.


It will take work because my swim game is awful! Running, training capoeira, and lifting weights do not translate to fluency in the water. I am much stronger on land.


Do you swim? If you exercise and have the means and skills, dedicate one day this week to a pool workout.


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