SAA On the Scene – November 2018

As the 2018 Open Water season comes to an end, SAA National members have been at some great events around the country spreading the SAA mission. Check them out and contact us if you have an event you’d like to have featured!

Golden Goggles Award Ceremony (New York, NY – November 19, 2018)

Swim Across America’s own and Olympian Craig Beardsley represented SAA at the 2018 Golden Goggles Awards in New York. Craig along with 4-time Olympic Medalist Maya Dirado, presented the Coach of the Year Award!



World Open Water Swimming Association Conference (San Francisco, CA – November 10, 2018)

SAA’s Director of Events Megan Melgaard and San Francisco Bay Swim Co-Event Director Susan Helmrich presented “Swimming for Good” and “Why I Swim” on behalf of Swim Across America at the WOWSA Conference held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.



Santa Barbara Pool Swim (Santa Barbara, CA – November 4, 2018)

The inaugural “SB Swims for a Cure” pool swim was held at the Los Banos del Mar Pool in Santa Barbara, California. The event doubled their fundraising goal in just it’s first year, raising over $11,400! SAA’s own Megan Melgaard and Craig Beardsley were able to attend the event and give some pointers to the swimmers! If you’re interesting in starting a pool swim contact Craig Beardsley!


Top Questions For… Top San Francisco Fundraiser Steve Barbour

steve barbour steve barbour 2

This weekend, the SAA family will take to the waters in the San Francisco Bay for our final swim. The annual swim is set to raise over $450,000 to benefit the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute!

Steve Barbour joined the SAA – SF family in 2011, and took no time to get his feet wet (pun intended). He has been one of the top fundraisers for the swim in each of his three years participating, and those who know him can attest to the warmth he exudes, even if the Bay is chilly! We caught up with him to chat about his tribute team, the secret to successful fundraising and the taking a dip under the Golden Gate.

  1. Tell us a little about who or why you’ve gotten involved with SAA.

I started swimming 3 years ago to get back in shape and help manage stress. I happen to swim at the same facility as Susan Helmrich, who is a co-chair of the SF swim, and she invited me to join her team. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

  1. Are you a natural swimmer? Why choose a distance swim instead of a run or bike?

I’m not a natural swimmer although my younger brother Dave was competitive and a Laguna Beach lifeguard for many years. At first I thought I could train my way up to be competitive with him although he is 10 years my junior… big mistake! But now we can distance swim together, although he has to hold back and swim at maybe 65%. He did the event last year and it was great. Then we swam Alcatraz the next morning!

  1. Tell us about your team and the people swimming with you.

I swim on Team Susan Survives. It’s a fairly large group, as Susan knows everyone. You can’t help but be inspired by how she has managed her challenges (3 time survivor).

  1. You’re a top fundraiser for the San Francisco swim! What’s your secret?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I’ve worked at a large company for many years (Nestlé), and my wife and I have moved with the Company a number of times so we have a fairly large number of friends, both in and outside the company, that are happy to help out. The real secret is starting early, say early June, and following up occasionally, as often times the first or second email is just lost as people are so busy. It does take time… but it is obviously worth it! I also think I have an easier time because this is the only event that I ask for support from my family, friends and contacts.

  1. Would you rather: swim 3 miles on a sunny day or 1 mile with a shark tailing you?

I’ll take the 3 miles every time!!!

  1. How have you been touched by cancer?

We lost my Uncle Les way too early from brain cancer… he was only 55. And a friend and co-worker for over 25 years lost his son, David Stroud, to cancer. That was very tragic.

  1. What do you remember from your first SAA swim that keeps you coming back?

That was the year David Stroud passed away… just before the event…the kid was unbelievably tough, and I still get emotional when I think about it.

  1. What makes the SAA – San Francisco swim so unique?

With all due respect to Chicago, New York, and the other locations, you can’t beat swimming from under the Golden Gate into Crissy Field! The views and the location cannot be beat. It is iconic!!!

  1. What makes Swim Across America special?

I have really enjoyed all the people I have come into contact with in the SAA organization as well as the local event leaders. It is also important that SAA does a good job managing their cost structure so that the bulk of the funds raised go to the intended purpose.  And obviously, I enjoy swimming in the Bay.

  1. What is your favorite time of day to swim? Why?

I like to swim early… I used to hit the water at 6:30 AM, but now that I am retired, I start an hour later, and spend more time in the whirlpool! It’s a great way to start the day!



It’s happened to all of us… our cap rips, our goggles break, we can’t seem to escape the smell of chlorine… It’s what we call “swimmer problems.” We’ve taken it a step further and thought about some fun “SAA swimmer problems” and here’s what we came up with!

-forgot my bodyglide #chaffing

-no warmdown in the open water #SAAsolutions

-crushin’ on your angel swimmer #mouthtomouthplease

-wetsuit only took 2 minutes to put on #winning

-fainted when Phelps looked my way #baltimoreSAAproblems

-up before the sun rises on event day #thoughtiwasdonewiththis #coffeeplease

-i hate flip turns anyways #openwaterproblems

-dj is playing my jam #its10am #bostonharborpartyboat

-watched jaws last night #worstideaever

-first open water swim, last time i’ll forget my goggles #rookiestatus

-raccoon eyes in my pic with an Olympian #lookinfine
-swam by a sea turtle #canigetaride? #SAAtampabay
-2 mile swim means i can eat this whole pizza, right? #notsorry
Comment and leave your own versions of #saaswimmerproblems

Newbie’s Guide to Open Water Swimming

Pink cap arms up

Open water swimming is a bit different than a dip in the pool. Mother Nature doesn’t always keep her bathtubs at a balmy 80 degrees, and when the only walls are walls of waves, an open water swim can seem intimidating. But we at Swim Across America know from experience that there’s nothing like the soft sound of rolling waves, the energy of becoming one with the water, and the accomplishment of crossing that finish line on the beach.

United by our commitment to the fight against cancer, we take pride in all who contribute to the cause. For those that swim with us, or are considering getting their feet wet, we’ve compiled some basic tips for taking the plunge!

Getting Ready

Believe it or not, most open water swimmers do a lot of training in pools. When prepping for an event, make sure you can swim at least the distance of the course comfortably. You can also practice a couple things that will help you once you get out onto the open seas:

  • Practice breathing to both sides. Bi-lateral breathing not only balances your body in the water, it can help you keep the sun from bothering your eyes, sight the shore without lifting your head, and avoid splashes from fellow swimmers.
  • Learn a few high-elbow drills. Waves in the open water can impede your recovery, so working on a stroke with a high elbow can help you to better extend your pull and catch the water.
  • Practice sighting. Since visibility can be low, you’ll need to sight where you’re swimming and establish a rhythm of lifting your eyes to see. Try the Gator Drill:
    • Close your eyes while your face is in the water, and lift your eyes slightly like an alligator to sight where you are in the pool while you practice. Get used to a rhythm of sighting (every 5 strokes, or more if you feel you can stay straight.) Be careful once you get close to the wall!!

Before race day, it’s helpful to have practiced even a little in the open water. If you can, swim part (or all!) of the course- it’s a great way to get comfortable.

The Main Event

Now is the time to trust your training and kick some open water butt! The most important thing to remember before your first open water event is to keep your composure. Panic can be a worse enemy than a riptide. Relax and remember not to fight the water, and your swim will be a piece of cake!

In case you’re so nervous you’re practically wetting your wetsuit, here are a few last-minute tips.

  • Nervous about your goggles coming off? Put them on before your cap, so they’re snugly underneath it. They won’t budge.
  • Nervous about getting run over by the pack? Position yourself on the outskirts of the swimmers before the start, and avoid the chaos from the beginning.
  • Starting to get nervous during the swim? Don’t forget- if you need to roll over and do some backstroke, mix in some breaststroke, or even just float for a while, that’s perfectly fine. Do what you need to re-focus and relax, then get moving again!
  • Get in a good warm-up. Whether it’s in or out of the water, a good warm-up will get you psyched for an event and physically ready as well.

Think you can handle more? Here are a couple other tips for the more confident open water newbie:

  • If you can’t see a buoy or a landmark you’re using to spot, follow the pack. Usually they’ll be going in the right direction. Check periodically to re-situate yourself and find your landmark.
  • Periodically breathe to the side that the shore is on in order to spot yourself and lift your head less.
  • Packs of swimmers can form and can get strung out, or split up, throughout the course. Make a plan! Figure out if it’s beneficial for you to get into a pack, and if so, where it’s best for you to position yourself within it, and what to do if you get strung out.

From becoming one with the water to the palpable camaraderie to that feeling of accomplishment as you run underneath the finish-line arch, open water swims are an exciting challenge and satisfying experience. Train smart (I can almost hear the Rocky theme song now…) and remember to have fun on event day!

We’ll see you and the rest of the Swim Across America family on the beach.