Aaron Peirsol and His Race for the Oceans

We've had a good time putting this whole thing together and trying to get people involved, finding the right place to do it and getting my sponsors involved as well. It's all come together fairly well. It's pretty cool, man. I'm really excited.

Open water swimming is generally associated with long-distance swimmers. You don't exactly fit that mold. How do convince short-course pool swimmers to step out of their comfort zone?

AP: When I grew up, we used to do open water swims all the time. We enjoyed getting away from the monotony of being in the pool. It was more of a relaxed way of competing for us.

And I know it has become more of a competitive sport now with the Olympics and all that. I think that's awesome. But I thought it'd be nice to bring swimming back to those roots for me. I learned how to swim in the ocean.

The organization that we're working with is the largest organization solely involved with the world's oceans so I thought it would be appropriate. I'd much rather swim in the ocean than I would in a pool. Most people that I know would probably rather do the same. It's much nicer. For me, it was a no-brainer. I love spending a day at the beach. No matter what we're doing I think we'll have a good time.

What are some of your favorite non-pool bodies of water to swim in?

AP: Growing up in Newport Beach, I always liked the northern Orange County beaches quite a bit. That's where I spent a lot of my childhood. I've been going down to Costa Rica and Central America for many years and have been enjoying that, too.

I actually went down to the Gulf Coast for the first time since I've lived here [in Texas]. They had a little hurricane swell and had some fun down there—brought some boards and stuff. I'd always been told not to be so excited about it, but I actually had a pretty good time down there. I also have a lot of family ties in Florida, and I thought it was pretty neat that we could do the race in Ft. Myers.

Switching gears for a moment, China is considered to be one of the earth's biggest polluters. Was there anything you witnessed while over there that really made you cringe or gave you hope that things are getting better?

AP: They certainly put on a good show for the Games. They took away all those cars everyday and shut down the smoke stacks. There were actually some really nice, sunny days in Beijing. I think that was the first time they've seen sunny days there in quite some time. You could definitely see that not every country, like China...they're not pushing for things like that quite as much. There's no real ecotourism economy there.

I know Oceana is thinking about putting a branch in Asia because it is such a massive player in the world. With so many people, it does have an impact—whether it's over-fishing or polluting or any of that kind of thing. I think more important than anything it's about educating people on what they're doing.

Are there any other swimmers, particularly from other countries, that have joined you in this cause or expressed support?

AP: No, not in that way, I suppose. That'd be kind of cool to do, though. I have friends all over the world in that regard. I think that at the stage we're at right now, it is more like a local thing. But growing [the Race for the Oceans] out to something much larger would be kind of neat. And getting the international swimming community involved is a long-term goal of mine.

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