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'Swim for Life' emphasizes buddy system

Swimmers pair up Sunday at Corona del Mar for water-safety awareness event.

September 18, 2006|By Kelly Strodl

When UC Irvine freshman Lyndsay DePaul got out of the water Sunday she looked like she had just won a race.

But there was no finish line and no competition. It was more important than that. She was participating in the fourth annual "Swim for Life" at Corona del Mar's main beach.

Lyndsay, 17, and her swimming buddy for the day, Kim Marks, 14, were the first to complete the water-safety event. Their prizes were a brisk swim and helping to raise awareness for water safety, especially among children.

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Johnny Johnson, owner of the Blue Buoy swim school who started the event, said Sunday he has seen a large increase in participation.

"We had people come up from San Diego, down from Bakersfield and Arizona," Johnson said. "They're all here to promote swimming and enriching our lives with a wonderful activity."

Johnson held the event in mid-September to "help carry emphasis in the down months" while summer winds down.

"We want people to realize that drowning prevention is a 12-month season," Johnson said. "The numbers [of drowning deaths] are down and there's been improvement."

On Sunday the event emphasized swimming with buddies. Fifty-two participants signed up this year for the 1.5- to 2-mile open water swim.

Lyndsay's initial swimming buddy, Adrian Jara, got lost along the way, so she eventually paired up with Kim. The two agreed the water was cold, but Lyndsay, who swims six miles every day, said it bothered her throat more than her arms and legs.

"I was just pacing myself," Lyndsay said. "Last year was my best year."

The Orange resident said taking a break from swimming over the entire summer because of an illness made getting in the water Sunday much more difficult.

Swimmers rushed the breaking waves at 10:20 a.m., only a bit behind schedule, beginning the swim that would take them out past the buoys and south to Arch Rock where they would turn around and follow their path back to shore.

Buddy Belshe passed out blue rubber wristbands to finishing swimmers as they jogged or walked up the beach. A lifeguard for more than 55 years, Belshe said he would have been out there swimming, but he was glad to stand watch on the sand and help his longtime friend Johnson.

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