I Almost Drowned. My Best Friend Rescued Me.
There’s a marked difference between being a strong and efficient swimmer, and being able to swim. That contrast almost killed me.
Years ago, I was sailing with my best friend Jay on his parent's boat, near Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. We had finished lunch an hour earlier and were relaxing and chatting with his parents, Sue and Hunt.
When Jay said ‘let’s swim to shore, there’s a beach on the other side and cute girls.’ I should have declined. But I was afraid of looking weak or scared. I’m not the first guy to attempt something he’s never done before hoping to meet women.
After Jay suggested we swim to the beach, Sue protested on my behalf. She told Jay she wasn’t sure I could make it to shore. She didn’t know anything about my swimming ability.
But she knew Jay was a fantastic swimmer. He spent his summers swimming in Mystic, Connecticut. But my ego spoke for me and I replied, ‘I’m sure I can do it. Let's go.’
Jay and I jumped into the water. Right away he was ahead of me. I began swimming and trying to catch up. Mistake one.
I got a little bit closer. He slowed down and encouraged me. ‘You’re doing great buddy, keep it up.’ We were about 15–20 yards away from the boat. I was feeling faint, but he was talking in a normal voice. It was clear he wasn’t tired yet.
I was hurting more than I let on. My muscles burned. I was an inefficient swimmer. My strokes were choppy. I swallowed too much water. I had spent an enormous amount of energy trying to stay close. He swam on, and I strained to keep up. Mistake two.
Jay was pulling away and I was barely moving. As much as I tried to swim, my body was uncooperative. Mistake three.
Exhaustion cascaded over me, unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Something was wrong. I couldn’t move my arms or my legs. I couldn’t keep my head above the water. I began sinking.
I’m a long-distance runner, so I considered myself ‘in-shape.’ I didn’t know what was happening. My body froze on me. My head was cloudy. I couldn’t even lift my arms to wave for help.