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The Rip Current
A rip current is a section of water (common in the ocean) that moves away from shore rapidly and forcefully. It usually occurs around uneven surfaces such as sandbars or man made formations like a jetty or a dock. Understanding how to deal with a rip current is important for safety. It also carries lessons for goal setting, swimming and life.
The irony is that to be successful versus the rip current we must not try to attack it directly. If we try to fight it we may lose. This runs counter to our survival instinct. If a threatening force pulls us in a direction, instinct tells us to go in the opposite direction. We want to overcome the frightening force of the rip current. The solution is simple but doing what is simple is not always easy. The trick is to swim at an angle to the rip current, usually parallel to shore. Trust is critical. Think about that. In order to reach our goal (shore) we cannot go toward it at first. The correct process (path) will eventually let us break free of the rip current and reach shore (our goal).
Success in competitive swimming sometimes requires us to negotiate rip currents of a sort. We all want to swim fast. It seems logical that the way to do so is to swim fast in practice. Fast swimming in practice is necessary, but we must also have patience to establish a physical and technical foundation upon which to insure consistent, long-term success. Taking time to develop sound technique and to establish a solid endurance base is important. If we stay process focused we will enjoy incremental improvements. Being results focused can cause us to lose patience and skip important steps needed for long-term success. As a swimmer you may have to “swim parallel to shore” before you reach your final destiny. Young and older swimmers need a patient, long-term view to insure safe, effective progress. Training and technique are progressive processes that may not always seem to point immediately “to shore” or that sometimes do not seem to get us there as quickly as we want or feel the need to. You will ultimately arrive “on shore” and your victory will be particularly grand and pleasant. Trust yourself and the process.
The rip current has applications to swimming technique. There are moments in each stroke when you generate effective propulsion. There are also moments when you need to relax and perhaps resist the temptation to apply force to the water. As in a rip current, applying force at inefficient moments is self-defeating. Patiently learning correct technique lets one swim efficiently, economically and ultimately with great power.
The rip current has lessons in the area of mental preparation also. No matter how prepared one is, it is possible to get distracted or feel nervous. You can choose to get angry or upset. That is like trying to fight the rip current. We sometimes think that we have to show we are tough by getting upset and waging a battle with the thing that bothers us. “We will show the rip current who the boss is.” Unfortunately we lose if we let the rip current (our opponent or something that irritates us) steal our focus. They are temporary distractions that are not worthy of our attention. We need to shift our focus to a happy thought or to a path that will (eventually but efficiently) let us succeed. Trust, redirect and stay true to your goal. Rather than waste effort trying to fight a force that will not listen or cooperate (like a rip current), try shifting your focus to something that you like, that makes you happy. Again, sometimes the best route to our goal is not the obvious one. Patience, trust and persistence will let you reach your goal. Trust, persist and believe and you will break through and reach your goals. Believe!
Staying with an ocean theme, consider the process that beach glass goes through to become smooth and attractive. At one point the beach glass was probably a bottle or some other form of glass. It somehow got broken and may have been litter. Litter and broken glass are not appealing and possibly cause harm. Over time however, the effects of the wind, sand, ocean and other elements cause that piece of glass to get smooth and take on a frosty look. That once unattractive, possibly dirty and dangerous piece of glass evolved into an attractive keepsake to be collected for decoration or made into jewelry.
We are not suggesting that any swimmer (athlete) is dirty or unattractive, but all we all begin with a modest level of swimming (athletic) proficiency. We all have lots of rough edges that we hope to refine and improve upon over time. Like the beach glass, with patience and persistence, you too can smooth your rough edges and acquire great skills that allow you to become a highly evolved, confident and successful person and swimmer (athlete). Believe!