Jersey Shore Man Trains Navy SEALS and Sets Records at Age 73!
This Spring Lake Heights 'super man' who served in the U.S. Air Force during Viet Nam and a lifeguard in Manasquan, still calls the Jersey Shore home even while training Navy SEAL candidates!
Don Walsh is not only our longtime morning show friend (you can catch him most Friday mornings on our show from the Asbury Boardwalk in the summer when he gives advice on staying safe in the ocean) but he is also the creator of the Combat Sidestroke Course (GoSwim.TV). And he has spent the last 20 years mentoring more than 7,000 SEAL candidates in order to get them ready for the swimming section of their training.
But it's not just during the summer that you'll find Don swimming in the ocean. When winter hits and others head for the mountains to ski, Don continues to enjoy the ocean even though the water temperatures drop into the mid to lower 30s!!!
Don grew up at the Jersey Shore and spent as much time as possible enjoying the ocean every summer. Few have a greater love and respect for the ocean as Don does. In fact, he has been for swims in the China Sea, the Sea of Japan, the Pacific Ocean, the Golf of Mexico, the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean, and the North Atlantic!
Don has been swimming in the ocean every month for the last 216 months straight and he's still going strong!
But even though Don swims in December, January, and February, he doesn't recommend this for people who haven't spent years training for it. In fact, he considers it his mission to remind you of how you can stay safe in the ocean. And one of the top rules is to never go into the ocean alone! Don always has someone on shore when he is swimming.
Don's son is an ocean lifeguard, so he serves as the perfect observer for his dad. Don also always goes in at low tide and swims in waist-deep water so that, if there's any need, he can stand up and walk back to the beach. He also keeps his swims short during the winter months and builds on his times as he swims through spring.
Don also always has something to eat before going into the ocean as it helps to prevent hypothermia. And he always has dry clothes to put on when he gets out of the water. This way he doesn't have to stay wet and cold on his ride home.
So how does he do it? He says just like those that grow up along the New Engladd coast, he has acclimated himself to swimming in cold water. He has also learned how rapidly his feet get cold so he doesn't waste any time trying to get used to the water when he knows its freezing cold. He just goes for it! He walks into the ocean until he gets waist-deep, then dives under and comes up swimming.
By beginning to immediately swim, he is able to avoid the brunt of the cold water, and by kicking, he's able to keep his feet warmer.
He says when he comes out of the water, he always feels more alive! He says it's a great feeling that very few will ever have. Don is so comfortable now, that he went from swimming a mile in 50-degree water to swimming a mile in 48-degree water to swimming a mile in 45-degree water last year to, last year, swimming a mile in 42 degree water! And he isn't stopping there.
For the past 20 years, Don has been mentoring SEAL candidates and helping them to get comfortable in cold water. The water temperature where they go through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school (BUDS) -- the first training step for recruits -- is even cold during the summer. Don's trainees have a huge advantage over their peers at BUDS if they are comfortable in cold water.
For SEAL candidates from the southern parts of the country who may never have experienced cold water even during the winter months, Don recommends to them that they take cold showers or cold baths in order to get used to being in cold water because they are gong to get plenty of that at BUDS!
Over the years, Don has taken SEAL candidates swimming off the Jersey Shore in preparation for BUDS. He takes them swimming in the ocean up until the beginning of December and then starts them again in May when the water temperatures are in the low 50s. He also trains them in the waters of New England.
If you're familiar with cold water, you know that even a degree or two can make a big difference. Don says all of the candidates have been very grateful for their cold water immersions in NJ.
Among Don's other accomplishments, he also took a 41.5 mile swim around the Isle of Jersey in England! To prepare, he tried to eliminate all the surprises that he could , but one thing didn't go the way he had hoped and that happened on the way out to the middle of the harbor where his swim was to begin:
Like the other Channel swimmers, he planned on applying 5 pounds of Vaseline and Lanolin to cover his body in order to keep him warm during his swim. As his son (Sean) applied the greasy mixture, his boat captain asked what he was doing. When Don told him, the Captain said "No, you're not!" Turns out his Captain explained that if Don were to cover his body with grease, then he wouldn't be able to get pulled back on the boat after his swim,
The reason? Don, as he puts it, is a swimmer trapped in a linebacker's body, lol! So it would have been too difficult a task to get him back on the boat after that lengthy swim...especially covered in pounds of lubricant! So he jumped in and did it without any 'coating' like the other swimmers.
Don has also been competing in ocean races for the past 40 years (including many local races at the Jersey Shore) and says that as long as it's fun, he's going to continue doing that. Plus, he says has so much fun teasing the guys about the perfect waves they have missed by not being out in the ocean as much as he is, lol!
Oh yeah, and he has a published book called Teach the Beach for parents to read to their kids so that the whole family can learn how to stay safe in the ocean including how to survive getting caught in a rip current.
Godspeed, Don Walsh. You truly are our hero!