Vancouver’s Kits Pool. One of my favourite places on the planet. I was swimming one evening, as the sun was going down. One of three people in the pool. All of a sudden, Canada’s Snowbirds flew by, in formation. Gorgeous.

3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. As my body glides through the water, I feel weightless. My entire being is smiling.

There’s something about swimming that, for me, is incredibly meditative. I sit in meditation every morning, but this is different. Breathing every third stroke means my mind is focused on only that. Other thoughts happen, however they don’t stick around. I can’t dwell on them, because, well, I don’t want to drown.

Not only is swimming wonderful for me physically, it’s effect on my state of mind is beautiful. No matter how I feel before I jump into the pool, I feel better when I jump out. If I’m down before, I’m happy after. If I’m stressed before I jump in, I’m relaxed when I’m done. If I’m happy before, I’m even happier after.

When I jump out of the pool, I feel like my belly flattened during the swim. It hasn’t, but I don’t care, I hang onto that feeling as long as I can.

It wasn’t until I lived in Vancouver and discovered Kits Pool that swimming became a regular thing. A lengthy 137 meters of bliss. To put that in perspective, Olympic pools are 50 meters in length. Located on the beach, it opens the May long weekend and closes in September. I started going regularly, almost every day.

So as this May long weekend came and went, I traveled to Kits Pool in my mind. Some friends were there in person. Lucky them!

When I first started going, as much as I tried, I couldn’t freestyle an entire length. I needed a coach. A friend told me about Steven, a former competitive swimmer giving lessons at the Vancouver YWCA. I signed up and was amazed at how learning a few techniques completely changed my swim. We worked on all four strokes, which made it even more fun. Kits pool became a breeze. Not having to turn until 137 meters meant I could really get lost in the swim.

I look back fondly at my summer of “funemployment”, when my friend Stu (also not working at the time) and I were at Kits pool every day. We “laughed” at those who had to be at work. By the end of that summer, I was a whole other shade of brown, my skin so tanned that my lily white butt glowed in the dark. I remember waking up from a nap on the pool deck, looking around, seeing someone close by and thinking, “that woman in a black bikini is here every day. Doesn’t she work?” I then paused, took a look at myself and laughed. There I was, in a black bikini, not working, at the pool every day. I eventually met her at the yoga studio I frequented, and we had a good laugh. Turns out, she was working – early morning hours meant she could swim in the afternoon.

I eventually signed up for Intro to Masters Swim classes at the YWCA – preferring to try it out in a more relaxed environment before committing to an actual Masters. My first Masters was at the West Vancouver pool, which started at 5:30am! Thankfully I lived a seven-minute drive away. I could roll out of bed at 5:00 and be in the pool on time.

Steven then convinced me to join a Masters Swim group where he was a member. “The coach is Russian, really good, and works all four strokes,” he said. As much as I shouldn’t have been in the same pool as Steven, I joined. There were four lanes filled with former German and Canadian national team members, and me. Thankfully I was always in a lane by myself. I did the same drills as everyone else, just nowhere near as many. I loved it.

The last time I was in a Masters Swim, I joined with one of my besties. I would pick her up in the morning, we’d swim, then head to the office. We’d been doing this for months when she said something about it being the gay and lesbian masters club. I stopped her mid-sentence. The what? Not that I gave a shit, I wasn’t exactly rolling out of bed at 6am to find a guy. Nor was she, as she already had a boyfriend. It did, however, explain the looks we were, and weren’t, getting.

In the years I’ve spent working and traveling around the world, I’ve always been able to find a pool.

In Istanbul I really lucked out. There was an indoor pool right beside our office. One of my coworkers came with me to translate as I met the manager to set up a membership. When told everyone had to wear a bathing cap, my objection fell on deaf ears. My hair was super short, and I never wore one. When the manager insisted, I asked if men with hair on their chests, shoulders and backs would be wearing a full-body wet suit. They didn’t find it as funny as I did….but seriously, these men have more hair on their body than I have on my head!

In Baku, Azerbaijan, I joined a club near my apartment. Rarely were there other women swimming lanes. If there was an empty lane when I arrived, I jumped in and nobody came near me. Local men did not want to swim with a woman. Worked for me! I love it when I get a lane to myself.

Aaahhh, the memories.

COVID hasn’t been pool friendly. But that’s changing now. The local YMCA is open again, accepting limited numbers for lane swims. So I’m back in, pretending to be at Kits pool. Come June 24th there’s a local outdoor pool opening, and I can not wait to try it out. Seriously though, it could be open now, it’s certainly warm enough!

3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. 3, 2, 1, breathe. A must in the pool, and a lesson for life outside the pool too. It’s always a good reminder to just breathe.

Kits pool, Kits beach – here’s to being back there again. Meanwhile, thanks for all that you have given me!