Fear of…

Do you have a fear of water?

I mean fear of swimming in the great wide ocean. I do!

Actually I have a fear of balancing my body anywhere but on the ground. Be on a bicycle, snowboard, skis, rollerblades, surfing and of course swimming.

Stories of my life! I have tried everything and I can semi do it all but I FEAR!

Maybe it is the old age. I should have learned all these when I was 2 years old, not when I was 20.

So, yes, swimming. I can swim perfectly alright on a pool where I can see or touch the ground and where I know where to go–just follow that black, red, blue or whatever colored straight line they have on pools, right? Easy.

But but but…in an ocean, it is a different story.

Well, I did do an Olympic Triathalon two years ago including an open water swim. Not trying to brag but that’s the truth. Even I don’t believe it now!

My happy face (pink cap) after I survived the swim portion

Why did I do it? Did it to get rid of this fear.

I swam 1.5KM in that freaking cold morning. I do have to admit, Vancouver’s beaches are more like a bay, though. So, even when they said it was open water, there were no waves crashing towards you. It was still big dark salty ocean water, with minor waves, where I couldn’t see the ground and my imagination told me that there were sharks and other sea predators in there.

I watched this movie called “Jaws” a long time ago. And, I give all credits to that movie for my fear of swimming out in the open. I don’t know what lies beneath it. What if, there are really sharks in there? I am pretty much dead. I can’t swim and fight.

The one thing that convinced me to swim out in the open here was that my friends told me that sharks don’t like cold water. And being in the Northwest of North America, I convinced myself that it must be true. All sharks incidents are in warmer areas such as Florida, Hawaii, and places in Australia. I did hear, there were shark sightings in Malibu, CA. That’s probably a borderline. Sharks know that weather starts getting colder anywhere north from there.

So, yes, I trained and swam in open water two years ago. The first time, I tried to swim in an open water for my Tri, I panicked, got cramped, forgot to breathe and thought I was going to sink.

One more thing: I can’t tread water. Have tried it zillion times…but I still can’t. I don’t know how people relax treading water (Do you smell jealousy here??). I get tired doing it. I just do breaststroke and swim around people who are treading water. Or, I hang on to a buoy to rest. Problem with the latter option is that I have to get to a buoy first.

I somehow managed to swim 2 or 3 times before the race in the open water to get comfortable. Thanks to all my tri friends and mentors for motivating me. I felt good…figured as long as I can sight and keep going, I am okay.

The morning of the race, my eyes were filled with tears thinking I would die. What did I sign up for? I signed up to die and now all these people will see me die a slow death, swallowing this salty water. I was trying to get rid of my fear of swimming in the open water and now this is the end of my story.

Luckily, somehow I managed to swim 1.5KM.

I think the angels, water gods, sea turtles, or whoever were watching me that day helped me finish it. I was one of the last people to finish but who cares. I was alive..and on an adrenaline high.

I finished the race, tucked in my wetsuit thinking I will use it again…SOON.

Fast forward to August 20, 2015. I opened my box to take out my wetsuit after almost two years (two weeks shy) of not seeing it.

Went with my friends to Kitsilano beach to try open water swim. I thought I can do it…why not? I have done it before even if it was two years ago.

Kitsilano Beach
How calm Kitsilano beach looks? Photo credit: Edwin.

I dipped my body in the water. It felt good. My friends swam ahead. I was following them.

And suddenly, panic struck me. I fearedddddd for my life and I could not swim.


I saw my friends calmly swimming away. Here I was without being able to breathe. I moved my legs too hard and had cramps. I slowly swam to the shore, did some short laps closer to the shore, got tangled into a fisherman’s net (not trying to be a mermaid here but happens) and waited for my friends.

I am back to level zero again :(.

Will this fear ever go away?

I really want to get rid of this fear. How can I swim but only in the pool? I still have few more weeks of summer left. I am hoping to get out to the ocean again to try it out. I am still afraid, though. The soundtrack of Jaws plays in my ears every time I am in there. Let’s see how long it will take to get rid of this fear. Will keep you guys posted.

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