Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July everyone - sharks and the gift of fear

Friends keep telling me or rather asking me about my greatest fear.  I don't have many but one "allergy" I have that I cannot take any prescription or over-the-counter medication to alleviate is my fear of being shark bait.  

Recent Events

Two major swims ended with the crew deftly spotting a shark and calling the swim over.  One happened on the first of two Farallon Islands swims in 2015.  Simon Dominguez attempted to be the first to swim from the Golden Gate Bridge in SF Harbor to the Farallon Islands.  After 18 hours, he abandoned the 30 mile swim because a Great White shark developed a fancy for him.  He was upset but happy to be able to return to the pub and reconsider another attempt.  A few weeks later, Kim Chambers became the first woman to make the crossing (from the islands back to the bridge).  I found her courage to swim so impressive that I set aside my worry about any Catalina Channel sharks and decided to focus on swimming again.

My focus, however, got derailed after a second event happened this year.  Earlier this month, a woman attempted an equally arduous 26 mile marathon swim across the Kaiwi Channel - the bit of water that separates Oahu from Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands.  During the swim, her crew spotted a curious predator.  The crew did all they could to ward off the shark but wise counsel lead Ranie Pearce to abandon her attempt.  She made a wise decision because the channel will still be there to cross in the future; likewise, she can rest assured that she will be around too.

The Gift of Fear

In both cases, the crew worked with the swimmer to manage the threat.  I was impressed by the kayakers and crewmates aboard the pilot boat who were vigilant enough to spot the shark.  Hopefully, my crew can learn something from these events.  I have tremendous faith in their ability, vision, and interest to keep me safe.  Thus, I don't worry.  Worrying provides very little assistance and, as Gavin de Becker noted in his book "The Gift of Fear," the things we worry about are those that rarely occur.  So, I have no intention of worrying about what I cannot control.

I wish no shark any harm.  Simultaneously, I don't wish to provide them with a meal.  My focus is swimming.  I hope they have the same focus and leave me alone.  Don't get me wrong; if one decides to fancy a treat, that cartilaginous critter is gonna get one heck of a fight.

OK, enough on sharks.  Time to pack.

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