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Open Water Swimmer


Libby Clark lives by the bay in Provincetown’s West End. Most days, if the tide allows and it isn’t the dead of winter, she goes for a long swim toward Long Point. Out in the middle, she’s immersed in the life of the bay.


I have always been completely fascinated by water. My parents were huge ocean lovers. They basically threw my brother, my sister and I at a really young age into the ocean and said, Have fun and figure it out. You couldn't keep me out of the water! It's funny, I remember as a kid seeing big puddles and thinking, Is that something I could swim in?


When I’m swimming in the bay, there’s the potential of seals and the potential of a shark. If you get a cramp, and you're out in the middle of the bay, that can be really, really scary. There have been times when I was really sort of a beginner, and I was determined to swim when it was cold water. I got a really heavy wetsuit, and I started going. I got so into it that when I looked up, I was really far out! And that's when I realized, Hold on a second! I gotta get back!


When I'm swimming, I'm looking at nature, I'm looking at the crabs. I’m looking at what’s coming up next. I'm feeling the jellyfish, and it's all about being in that moment, stroke by stroke, by stroke. You're in with the currents. Your body is moving, either with the current or against the current. So, you're feeling the whole being of the bay.


Sometimes, I just stop, and when you look around and realize that I'm this tiny little speck out in the middle of the bay. But it is incredibly beautiful. Am I any different than the jellyfish that's floating along there? It's the same thing.


Sometimes it's really peaceful. This all depends on the weather, whether it’s choppy or wavy.  And even sometimes when it's really wavy, there's peace in the struggle.  


I'm 65 now. I’m sure as I get older, I’ll have to make some changes, but I hope I can swim forever. I wanna swim every season. I wanna swim every day. There are days when I take a day off, but I have to be really tired to do that, because if I don't swim, I'm a little edgy and a little cranky <laugh> and, you know, I don't wanna miss out <laugh>.


I've said to people, you know, God forbid I'm out in the middle of that bay and have a heart attack. If that's where I go, that's where I go, and that's where I'm meant to go. And that's the most beautiful place I could imagine ever leaving this earth.

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