It’s Good to be a Swimmer

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As you read this, I am undergoing my BSA Swim Test, designed to determine whether I will be allowed to swim, frolic, tread water, or float in water over my head.

The chit above, given to me two years ago during my Troop’s last sojourn at summer camp, is a matter of distinct pride. Everyone at camp gets a chit. A blank chit is the mark of a “non-swimmer.” You’ll be allowed to get your feet wet, maybe, and only with a buddy. A chit with the top half filled in red is a “beginner,” allowing one to wade into the water up to about their chest. A chit with both the red and blue filled out marks a “swimmer,” basically allowing you in the pool without restriction.

I have taken and passed the BSA swim test twice during my adult life. The first time was in 2018, when I weighed about 325 lbs. It was easier than I had expected, and I realize now that I can attribute that ease to approximately 110 lbs. of buoyant fatty tissue that behaved as a natural full-body life jacket.

The second time I passed I weighed 216 lbs, it it was brutal. Aside from the fact that it was a mountain-spring-fed pool at an altitude of 5,400 feet above sea level, my body-integrated buoyancy was gone, and so was my insulation. And as difficult as it was to haul my body 200 yards through chilled water, the full-minute float was an unaccustomed effort. Between the cold, the altitude, and the extra exertion just to keep myself above water, it was the most exhausting workout I had experienced in a year of hard physical training.

Needless to say, I was pretty chuffed about passing that time, especially given that the last 50 yards I was carrying on a conversation with the waterfront director who was testing me. G-d bless Carlos – he is a force of nature.

For now, once more into the pool, dear friends…

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