I grew up in Hawaii. When I tell people that, I usually get a dreamy sigh and a comment along the lines of, “How wonderful! I bet you were at the beach every day!”

I usually smile and agree that, yes, growing up in Hawaii was wonderful. But what I seldom say is that I really hated the beach when I was a kid. In fact, it was my negative experiences with beaches that led to my love of swimming pools.

I lived on Oahu, and there, most beaches were crowded and dirty, including the water. When I was nine, I found myself floating next to a floater — and by that I don’t mean another person. I fled the water.

When I was 10, we went snorkeling at beautiful Hanauma Bay, a treasure trove of coral and sealife. I rested on what I thought was a rock, and was terrified when an enormous moray eel surged out, jaws snapping. I fled the water.

In my fear, I turned to pools. They were safe, the water clean and clear. There were no waves to crash over you, no critters to slither against you, no fecal floaters to pop up around you. Every chance I got, I fled to the water — of a pool.

When I reflect on my love of water and of how lucky I am to be serving the industry that kept me afloat in my youth, this is what I think of. This is my “water story.”

Water stories have been on my mind since I attended the World Aquatic Health Conference last October. Keynote speakers Dr. Wallace J. Nichols and Bruckner Chase explained that water stories are the tales of our deep connection to water. Nichols is author of Blue Mind, a book that details our innate attraction to water and how being around or under water can have real neurological and other health benefits. Chase is a self-described waterman, or endurance swimmer, with a lifelong history of loving the water.

Nichols and Chase encouraged attendees to craft their own water stories and share them. As each person spoke, something magical happened: The lines on their faces softened as they recalled some of their happiest childhood memories — being taught to swim by a beloved parent; hanging out with friends at the local pool; swinging in an old tire over the lake; and for one person, a lifeguard, deep pride in their ability to save lives. I felt a warm closeness to these people who were, just a few minutes ago, strangers. Now we were connected, united by water.

As members of the aquatics industry, our connection to water is, first and foremost, what connects us all. So tell me, what’s your water story?

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