Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

20 Pools - A Swimming Odyssey: Pool #22: Lincoln City Community Center, Lincoln City, OR

I've developed a serious problem with this swimming pool fetish. It's starting to affect everywhere I go. When I was a biker, I had no problem leaving home for a week then picking up my training where I'd left it. Although I did haul my hand cycle with me on some pretty long roadies, if I didn't need it, it was better to leave it at home. If I was traveling for a race or heading out to Eastern Oregon to ride for a few days, I made the effort. But for the most part, I left the hand cycle and the training at home.

But I've got no such excuse with swimming. There are public pools in nearly every city in the country. You just have to find them and call to see if they offer lap-swim as opposed to open-rec swim - which is just a splashy free-for-all.

Last fall I got an email from the Portland Sports Authority announcing a big-wave surf competition in Lincoln City, a small Pacific Coast town of 8000, a little over an hour from Corvallis. Surfing is one of my all time favorite sports and anytime I see it on TV, I just stare at it like eye candy. Had I grown up in a coastal town, I never would have become a diver. I would have been on the board for hours on end, dropping out of school and spending my adult life happily homeless on a beach in Costa Rica or Fiji.

Although I've seen plenty of surfers in California, Oregon, Australia and Hawaii, I've never seen an actual surfing contest. And this one was a legendary "Big Wave" contest where sponsors fly participants in from all over the world on  the drop of a hat due to idyllic competitions.The Oregon Coast was churning up some massive surf and I was going to drive out and check out the best in the world take on the best conditions in the world!

Just one problem... I had some nasty stomach pain the day before and I skipped my workout in the pool. Skipping two days in the middle of the week would wreck my schedule and I just couldn't justify it. So it was off to the Interwebs to see if Lincoln City had a pool.

In today's America, even the smallest towns not only have swimming pools, but ACCESSIBLE pools. I found the Lincoln City Community Pool and they a lap swim every night from 6-7 p.m. I hopped into my van and took off for the coast.

When I used to pack my hand cycle it was a two-person job requiring all sorts of lifting and bungies. But all I had to do for this trip was throw in a change of clothes. My suit was already drying on a line I've set up in the back of my van. I busted down to the coast, grabbed a cod sandwich and fries, then found the LCCC just off of Hwy 101. The changing rooms were 100% accessible and the life guard on duty had lots of experience with the handicap lift. Lincoln City is a retirement town so they've got plenty of geriatric swim classes that use the lift daily.

The LCCC swim center has a super-clean six-lane 25-meter pool with water slides and both a 1m and 3m board. I plopped into one of three open lanes and pulled my workout while a water aerobics class took up the rest of the pool. I splotched through my workout using the lane lines to count laps. Six lanes; 60 laps. Each time I knocked off ten laps, I moved my eyes to the next lane line and counted off ten more. It's little games  like this that allow you to space out and avoid the monotony of lap swimming.

When I was done, the guard brought the lift over and scooped me out of the pool without hesitation. It was just that easy. I had to marvel at how far disability awareness has come over the past 50 years. In 1970, they may have not even let me into the pool because of my "disease."

I went out to a few pubs in search of anyone connected with the Big Wave surf contest, but I couldn't find anyone who even knew it was taking place. In the morning, I went back online and found a location for the contest in an obscure coastal neighborhood a mile south of the city. There in a tiny 10-car parking lot along the beach were two pop-up tents, one announcing the contest and another a sponsor tent pushing the kind of sugary sports drinks I abhor.

I parked the van and peered out into the Ocean but couldn't see a thing except the waves, which unfortunately had died down a bit from the day before. A few other spectators drove by asking me if I knew what was going on, but I just shrugged my shoulders. The event tent was empty and the sponsor tent was manned by a woman who knew absolutely nothing about the event.

After 20 minutes of frustratingly staring into the ocean, a forest ranger drove by and told me all the spectators were up on a bluff about a quarter mile away. I rolled up the hill to discover 40 or 50 people looking over a hedge that was too tall for me to see anything. I asked people if they could see the action and their answer was a resounding "meh?"  The surfers had gone so far out into the ocean that even with binoculars, they still looked like ants in syrup. I moved further up the bluff where I could finally see some surfers, but they weren't doing much surfing. In an hour I'd only seen four runs - and from that distance I couldn't even tell if they were people or sea lions.

I was pissed off that I'd driven all the way out  to the coast with great anticipation of seeing something I'd wanted to see my whole life. So I had to make a quick attitude correction. I was on the Oregon Coast with huge waves on a beautiful sunny day.  All was forgiven.

And then I went back to the pool and caught the noon lap swim. 

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