Come on in; the Water's Fine
By Bekah Wright
Published Apr 26, 2012 12:00 PM
All skill levels are welcome to take the plunge at the nation's largest masters swimming program.
Summer often brings the urge to dive into a swimming pool or catch a wave in the ocean. What better way to do so than with the support and motivation of a fellow Bruin and Olympian—Clay Evans, '76? As director of Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ), the largest masters swimming program in the United States, Evans motivates experienced swimmers, as well as newbies, to "take the plunge."
Evans, a Canadian citizen, came to UCLA on a swimming and water polo scholarship. "I spent a lot of time in the men's gym pool back then," he says. While majoring in economics and design, Evans competed in both the '72 and '76 Olympics. In the latter, he garnered a silver medal for Canada in the 4X100 medley and placed sixth overall in the butterfly.
To earn money for graduate school, Evans began coaching a children's swim team in Santa Monica. Then, "more and more adults started knocking on the door," he recalls. So, SCAQ began with 12 swimmers and has now grown to include more than 1,000.
What is masters swimming? "It's organized, coached, instructed swimming for adults aged 18 to 80-plus," says Evans, assuring beginners there's a place for them in the lap lanes. "Just take the first stroke," he says. "Whether you're just learning or are dealing with an injury, the next thing you know, you're moving in the water."
But masters workouts aren't just lap swimming. The difference, according to Evans: "Swimming alone in a lap lane, the only feedback you get is pain. In a coached workout, you're forced to move along in the flow and are distracted by the people, the set, and before you know it, an hour has passed."
A vital component to that hour is the coach. "Last year, we had six Olympians coaching; now we have three," says Evans. "The one thing we all demand is that you're moving and interacting with other people."
There are plenty of opportunities to give SCAQ a try. The year-round program includes eight pools and 80 workouts a week. Plus, SCAQ offers swim lessons, along with technique, stroke, ocean and competition clinics, as well as ocean swims. But no matter the level of swimmer, the message is always the same: Dive right in. The water's fine.