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Apodaca: 'Skwim' coming to a pool near you

November 26, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Entrepreneurs are intriguing people. Their brains are wired a bit differently. The wheels are always turning, they have trouble sitting still, and they're always on the hunt for a new concept, an overlooked niche, a creative solution, or simply a way of doing the same old thing just a little bit better.

During my many years writing business news for the Los Angeles Times, some of the most fun stories I worked on (yes, business writing can be fun) involved entrepreneurs. I loved learning about their journeys to bring their products or services to market along paths fraught with risk, unexpected obstacles, frustrating delays, and other twists and turns. Their stories were so full of the yin and yang of disappointment versus boundless optimism. They were so quintessentially American.

And they always began the same way: "I had an idea."

So when I met up recently with Kevin McCarthy, a Newport Harbor High graduate with a decidedly entrepreneurial bent, his story sounded both familiar and fresh.

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McCarthy, who now lives in Sammamish, Wash., has combined his fascination for the sporting equipment industry with his passion for invention, and came up with a pretty nifty way to make a living.

The father of five was recently back in Newport Beach, where his parents still live, promoting one of his ventures: an innovative pool game he calls "Skwim," which is vaguely reminiscent of water polo, but more user friendly. That is, it's a sport that can be played by pretty much anyone, not just stellar athletes.

Like water polo, Skwim involves two goals set at opposite ends of a pool. But these goals are round floating platforms, with smaller plates set on top. Players score when a small disk, which looks like a Frisbee, makes it into a slot on the goal.

When I spoke with McCarthy, he was overseeing middle schoolers at Corona del Mar High School as they played Skwim. He has also introduced the game to students at Costa Mesa High School and is hoping the word will spread to other local campuses.

The kids I watched were having a blast, their happy hoots and hollers echoing around the pool area. They wore small, oval-toed fins, which McCarthy also designed, and most seemed to have mastered the technique of skimming the disk across the surface of the water.

"My son lived for this day," one mother told me. "He couldn't wait to play."

Another student stopped by to tell McCarthy how much she loved Skwim.

"I hope it gets in the Olympics," she gushed.

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