View Full Version : close encounters of the wild(life) kind

August 19th, 2004, 01:45 PM
I had an feathery experience while swimming in the ocean...at the beach in front of my house is a rock which, at high tide, I dive from. I swim a set number of strokes out, then swim back in.

So I've done about ten of these out and backs, and am feeling pretty winded. After swimming out again, I float on my back, recovering. An eagle dives down and swoops over me, about a metre above my body...I could see his belly, talons, tail feathers, etc so clearly! But it also spooked me! Thank goodness he didn't think I was a salmon...

August 19th, 2004, 02:45 PM
When training for the Atlantic City Marathon a little shark came up and bit my big toe, fortunately he did not take it off. I did get an infected toe and the toe nail never made it back completely. I'm glad it was not his big brother.

George www.swimdownhill.com

August 25th, 2004, 03:28 PM
That's what makes open water swimming even more stimulating!
I too have encountered curious eagles and osprey while out swimming in the lakes. And my support crew have followed a black bear along the shore line as I swam. I did wonder just what exactly they were watching, so thinking it may be of a wildlife concern, I swam a little bit more away from the shore. As time went by my adrenalin and imagination began to kick into high gear, so I headed back to the shore, a whole 1000m, (in record pace) to hear the story of the bear in the safety of the car.
To add to those great adrenalin boosting stories, I swam with two endangered species.
Once while competing in a harbour swim, Hector's Dolphins (the world's smallest dolphins 5 feet) decided to swim with me. Now that may sound phenomenal. Besides tourists pay gazillions to swim with them. I had been out swimming with them for 3 days prior to the race. We would dive in from the boat and make sounds and they would nuzzle up, so very friendly. So here I was in a race, and I could see them about 25meters away on my breathing side. Rhythmically coming up each time I breathed. The saltiness of the sea in NZ, (which is more salty than here) caused a dry throat, so I coughed a couple of times. Well before you could blink, underneath me were three grey shadows with dorsal fins.
I popped out of the water with more height than a water polo goalie. These lovely dolphins wanted to play, they grazed upside down on my belly, all eyes on me. That sent my hear rate way over the ultimate sprinting zone, and an enormous shot of adrenalin zinged all over me. My family naturally recorded this unforgettable moment, albeit with their commentary, laughter, my facial expressions, and my audio as well. Next time I will visualize this and not get so gosh darned scared out of my wits. I thought I was a quick snack.
The other endangered species is found in my home lakes. Although very small at 18-23 cms and weighing in at a hefty 40grams, this particular breed of lamprey can also be intrigued by other 'water creatures'. As we know, things 'feel different' in the water. Imagine my surprise, after far too many false alarms, to actually see this curious eel stuck on my leg. I suffered the same huge heart rate increase, and zinging of adrenalin. Managed to flick the creature off, and then needed a bit of time to re group!!
Ah, the joys of open water swimming.
And all the great stories we have as a result. There are so many!!

old dog
August 26th, 2004, 12:34 AM
GEEZ you guys---you're scaring me! ;) Eagle, sharks, lampreys????

I have swum in fresh and salt open water many times and have
never had a close encounter...is that a good thing? :confused:

Geuss I'll need to put in more open water mileage!!:p

Mark in MD
August 26th, 2004, 08:22 AM
Originally posted by old dog
GEEZ you guys---you're scaring me! ;) Eagle, sharks, lampreys????

I have swum in fresh and salt open water many times and have
never had a close encounter...is that a good thing? :confused:

Geuss I'll need to put in more open water mileage!!:p

Wonder what would happen if one were to run into Mr. Moose? :D

August 26th, 2004, 10:32 AM
Originally posted by Mark in MD
Wonder what would happen if one were to run into Mr. Moose? :D

It depends if Ralph is with him or not. (Of course it seems that Ralph is always with Mr. Moose.)

August 26th, 2004, 05:09 PM
Although I've only really seen fish (when the water isn't too muddy) during open water swims, I've been face to face with otters, flying fish and sea lions when surfing. One time I was out by myself and I was followed around by a love sick sea lion the whole time. If I was on one side of a wave, he'd flap his flippers to raise himself almost out of the water to see where I was.

Cute but nerve wracking for me. Up close, they are really big and have really smelly breath! Too much fish I guess.


August 26th, 2004, 05:20 PM
Don't think of it as scary. It's called being aware of all of our senses.
Last year at a stop on a marathon swim, with my body temp seriously low (I could have drilled a hole for an apple tree in 2 mins flat) I had to stop. So I sat with my crew on a tiny little island about 50meters from the mainland, at the 12.6km or halfway mark of the race. I cast my eyes down and there, right before all my senses was a hot steaming deposit. Aghast, and dumbfounded, I scanned to discover daily mounds of bear scat. This bear had enjoyed the fresh water crayfish daily, and by the looks of things wasn't far from where we were. Horrified, I asked if Bears can swim. And "obviously they can" was the reply as this island was too tiny for their survival. Now that was motivation to move on.

In the river beautiful sleek and happy fat brown trout flutter underneath me as I test my strength against the current, clams open and close in a cheering style and the freshwater crayfish wave me on determinedly as they mark thier territory. That's a real experience of being part of the water creatures environment, a whole lot of fun. Certainly makes me keep my head down looking for them all each time I am in the river.

Just think how many times would one ever think a splash from a kick in a chlorinated container of various dimensions would feel like a creature? (unless you have those lanemates who rely a bit on full contact to keep them in the lane, or have swimmers whose limbs require a lane and a half).
Instead of counting strokes inside, outside the focus is on cutting through the water stealithly, out swimming those creatures and trying not to look like an item on a menu, or part of the food chain. And keeping the imagination and adrenlaine just bubbling calmly beneath the surface.
(So Ralph and the Moose don't surface)
I maintain that pools need a little mechanical creature that pops out, chases, even touches, so others can get a suprise charge of adrenalin. Imagine how PB's would plummet.

But we have the stories, those who swim outside the lines.
This year I had 5 USMS swimmers join in our 10 and 26km open water swims. Experiencing the rugged beauty and wildlife.
Keep these swims in kind for next year. July 17th a 10km or 6.25mile swim, and August 12th a 26km or 16.2 mile swim.
Plus there will be some Open Water Camps, 2 weekend camps and a full week to hone those skills and polish up your story telling abilities
;) :p

August 28th, 2004, 09:38 AM
growning up on the coast I've had encounters with several creatures. The two most memorable ones were not while I was swimming, but while I was skiing. The dolphins liked to surf in the wake created by the speeding boat and would turn slightly on their side so they were looking up at the skier. Imagine pacing or being paced by a dolphin. If we weren't skiing the dolphins liked to surf in the bow wake and would do the same thing, turn sideways so they could watch us lean over the rail and watch them. But folks, even though they may seem friendly and may seem like they want to play, they are still wild animals who have incredible strength. Don't approach them, they may be having a bad day and you could just be the last straw.

The second memorable event happenned the very first time I tried skiing and it all happenned in a matter of a minute or so I guess. As you all know I'm blind as a bat, even back then I couldn't see worth anything. So I'm sitting out in the water, skis sticking up, holding on, just waiting for the signal that they are going to start. Then everyone in the boat starts waving their arms... I think, good I'm ready, lets go, but the boat didn't move and they kept waving their arms... guess I'm suppose to wave back, so I did... the waves continued... now keep in mind, because of my poor vision, I can't tell they are motioning for me to swim back to the boat... finally everyone starts pointing to the left instead of waving... I look over to my right and a few feet away is a HUGE loggerhead turtle. I think it was just getting some air, but it was just way too close for comfort. I was back in that boat in a flash, and the whole time I was swimming back I kept on thinking I was feeling that turtle starting to bite my toes/foot off. Didn't get back in the water the rest of the day!

August 31st, 2004, 01:13 AM
I like most of the critters I see in the water and here on the coast I see a lot. Rays of all kinds, small sharks, dolphins and seals. Sea lions can be alarming when they swim under me. Occasionally i've whacked into fist, once I swam into a large batray in a lot of red tide that was alarming. Jellyfish, annoying. Well yesterdya I was @ 1/2 miel offshore an 2 miles in to my swim when I stopped to try to adjust my goggles. SO I was half blind, quiestly treading water when someone slammed into me. I lost the goggles and my cool I yelled! My swimming partner couldn't decide if he should swim towards me or away. All I knOw is "it" looked grey and big and seemed to come out of the depths. I hAve a large bruise on my thigh from just below my knee up to juSt below my hip! Confused Tuna? DIving whale? COnfused sea lion, shark? now I wish I'd held onto those goggles and followed down to see.

August 31st, 2004, 02:29 PM
I envy those of you who can see the wildlife.

My eyesight is horribly poor. I remember swimming in the bay at La Jolla, Calif, and others who were with me were so excited at the view underneath. I could only soothe my jealousy by reveling in the great invigorating swim itself.

Four years ago I did a mile swim at a boy scout camp in South Dakota. It was a dammed-up mountain stream (so the lake was quite cold) that created a lake. The lake was maintained jointly by the local boy scout council and a fly fishing club. (So it was stocked with some beautiful trout, which I got to see on the end of a fly line, but not while swimming.) I loved the swim and I loved outswimming all the scouts, but I was disappointed not to be able to see anything underneath.

I had asked my eye doctor about prescription goggles, and he can get them with precise lenses for me, but they are ugly bug-eyed things that wouldn't work for real swimming, and they would be oppressively expensive.

But about two years ago I came across some prescription goggles in a catalogue. You can only get stock prescriptions, measured only in "diopters", so it really isn't a close prescription fit for most people. They have no correction for astigmatism either. I bought the strongest ones available. $18.95. Wearing them on land, they seem to correct my vision about 50% or so. But just being able to see 50% better in the water is like a miracle to me! I can actually see the grout between the tiles in the shallow end of the pool. (Not so in the deep end.) I can see BUBBLES! I can see the pace clock! Even from the farthest lane (to some degree, anyway. If I stare a bit, I can see the second hand moving, so I can take off at given intervals now. If I want to take a quick glance at the clock off the turn, I still have to be in a closer lane.)

Now I'm eager to do some open water again, just to see if I can see any fish.

Of course, if it's something dangerous, maybe I was blest not to be able to see it coming! :)

August 31st, 2004, 02:45 PM
I'm blind as a bat too. I keep my contacts in when I swim - under the goggles. Haven't lost one yet.....

Until tomorrow morning that is ...

September 1st, 2004, 12:08 PM
I have considered contacts. But I can't make myself do it. I've never worn contacts. Even though everyone I know seems OK with their own contacts, including my own kids, I just can't make myself do it. I guess I'm just too much of a wuss to get beyond my hangup of sticking pieces of plastic in my eyes. Some day maybe I'll get beyond that.

September 7th, 2004, 07:26 PM
Watched "The Godfather" over the weekend. A line from the movie, if properly paraphrased, fits this thread:

"Luca Brasia (swims) with the fishes."

September 13th, 2004, 02:45 PM
Interesting "wildlife" in the lap pool today. A "Jellyfish". Someone must have had a doozy of a cold or allergies, and they cleared their sinuses all in one snort. It looked like a jellyfish about 4 inches across. :(

September 14th, 2004, 11:08 PM
That is so gross, and yet I split a gut.
So I 'shared with our masters after practise in the sauna. And they ahd the same reaction.
So gross, yet funny because it wasn't in our pool
:eek: :mad: :p :D

September 15th, 2004, 10:42 AM
Hi to everyone - I am glad that I found this forum, I just registered. :)
Around 1980 I spent some time as a hippie in Sri Lanka. I would always swim out far - and since no one would come with me - I went by myself. I was crossing a semicircular bay with a diameter of one mile. When I was approx. at the halfway point, ie ½mile from the shore, ½mile into my swim and still ½mile to go, I saw a big fin slicing thru the water, the perfect setup for a nightmare. It must have been my guardian angels that kept me from fainting. Surprised at my calmness, I kept on going steady. We swam opposite directions and only when that creature passed close by me, I identified it as a whale shark (plancton eater) with a length of 12 feet. Not much for a whale shark, but enough to scare the ... out of anybody. I was surprised at myself that I kept calm. As strange as it may seem, at that moment I was only concerned about reaching my destination. I could have touched it, but I didn't want to loose time. Strange! But looking back, may be it was better not to touch it.

I feel like being the only open water swimmer here in Austria. Last month I participated in (probably the only) open water race available (distance:5000m). The race took place in a calm pond with 23°C/73F water temp - however I was the only one competing without a wetsuit.


March 25th, 2005, 11:33 PM
Was I Shark Bait??? On my web site there is story about a Shark following me for ten miles in the swim to Block Island. Just found out it was a Great White Shark - Rejean Lacoursiere has found the picture of the shark that his brother in law took and is forwarding it to me. I will add it as soon as it gets to me.

George www.swimdownhill.com

March 29th, 2005, 07:22 PM
Here is the white shark I was swimming with in the Block Island swim (sorry Tried to put the picture on).
It is on my home page www.swimdownhill.com


March 30th, 2005, 06:18 PM
Just found out it was a Great White Shark - Rejean Lacoursiere found the picture of the shark that his brother Jean Guy took. It was taken just as we came out of the breakwall. On closer inspection, it is Johnny Lacoursiere in this shot, I can tell by the Hurricane goggles he is wearing. The Shark then slipped in behind me and followed me for the rest of the race.

George www.swimdownhill.com

March 30th, 2005, 11:43 PM
That is quite an incredible picture.
I can't imagine staying calm. I practically walked on the water when 3 dolphins zoomed up underneath me and one rubbed his belly on mine.
If I knew there was a shark, now that would not be pretty.
I can fully understand why you and your crew took no breaks!
I must say, the crew would never have been bored on that swim!!
IT's almost mind boggling when I think about it.
And that is why I prefer the fresh water swims. My imagination works overtime in the sea!
Any chance you may come across the pond and do a distance swim in Lake Cowichan??

March 31st, 2005, 10:44 AM
That picture was taken 38 years ago and found in a roll of undeveloped film, in Jean Guy's basement after he passed away. It was developed a couple of weeks ago by Rejean Lacoursiere. It is amazing that it turned out as well as it did. When Johnny saw it he sent it to me and his first word was "WOW" then - "have a look at this".

George www.swimdownhill.com

May 16th, 2005, 09:05 AM
While swimming in Boca De Igauna we had a strange visitor come by. He walked over the edge of a tent we had set up for my daughter to stay in. His name is Poncho the resident 15 foot long Crocodile.

Later that day two of our group were scuba diving out by the rocks about 200 meters off shore and who did they come face to face with??? Poncho. They left the area in a hurry and were about to get in the Zodiac and they found a baby whale blocking their way to the boat. They swam on a little farther and got to the side of the boat and the mother whale appeared. They got in the boat and away they went. Our swim clinic shifted to a swim pool for the next two weeks.


May 16th, 2005, 11:04 PM
I crashed in to a barnacle covered bouy once. Does that count?

My coach swam Alcatraz once eye to eye with a sea lion. The other day, I asked him about drafting, and all he said was "make sure the draftee is human."