When I first came to Davis for my job interview (the one that would result in my addition to the Philosophy Department at UCD), one of my future colleagues said, with a bit of a sarcastic snort, “Too bad Paul couldn’t be here. He’s been telling all of the candidates about Davis’s masters swimming group.” My head whipped around: “Davis has a masters swimming group??”
A good masters swimming group is hard to find.
I should know. I spent my thirteen years in the South Bay trying to find one. But none of them were right. The workout times were inconvenient. Or there was no coach – just a workout written on the board on the deck. Or the swimmers were all nationally ranked, with no room for an ordinary swimmer like me.
For those who don’t know what masters swimming is: It’s really just swimming for adults (18-100+), typically consisting of coach-led sets that include all four competitive strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle). A “set” might be, for example, “Do 10 X 100 yards of freestyle on a specified interval,” with the interval varying with the capabilities of the swimmer. (Ok, that’s a really boring set. Coaches Stu and Mary Kahn come up with a lot more interesting sets than that, and my inability to remember any of them is one of the reasons why I need a coach). Some masters swimmers compete, but many do not; many swim just for physical or psychological fitness or for other reasons (camaraderie, for example).
One of the things makes Davis Aquatic Masters (fondly known as DAM – and yes, we love our DAM jokes, especially the one about how DAM fast we are) so incredible is its size. According to the website, we are over 500 strong. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s incredibly large for a town this size, especially when you consider all of the adults who swim regularly who aren’t part of DAM. I’ve often wondered what it is about Davis that has caused so many swimmers to congregate here, but I have no answers; all I can say is that comparable towns do not have masters teams this size.
Why does size matter? It means that DAM can offer lots of workout times for people to work around their schedules; currently, DAM holds 9 practices each weekday, plus two coached workouts on Saturday and some free swim time on both Saturday and Sunday. That makes it easier for people to stick with it.
Not that it’s all been easy for me. As an east coast swimmer who grew up swimming in indoor pools in all seasons except summer, learning to swim in the low 40s in the rain was a bit of a challenge. My first few DAM years I didn’t quite make it, stopping swimming at the end of fall and restarting in the spring. Finally I bought myself a big thick swim parka and convinced myself that if I just kept it on until the last moment before getting in (the pool is heated in the winter) and then put it on right after I got out, I wouldn’t get chilled at all. Not entirely true, especially on a cold, windy day (hail is a bonus), but I continue to practice this little bit of self-deception. The other people around me going through the same thing helps as well.
And that’s really the magic of DAM – the other people. People to commiserate and kvetch with, people to check in with and who check in with you if you’ve been missing for a while, people to keep you company during a long set that you would never otherwise do on your own, but that you feel really good for having completed. It’s a great group of people, and it’s kept me going through periods of my life that would have been a lot more difficult otherwise. I love my DAM lanemates, both new and old (by which I mean “ongoing,” of course 😊 ).
There has be a lot of discussion lately about whether Davis needs more pools – a new community pool? A new high school pool? I have some thoughts about that, which I hope to share soon. In the meantime, I’d like to invite readers to talk about other little pockets of Davis that make it special for you the way that DAM is special for me. Leave a note in the comments below, or email us your words (see “About the Davisite” in the sidebar for contact info) – we’d be happy to publish them!