When I was swimming the Columbia River in the winter of 2002-2003, I was, literally, freezing. I just didn't have the right gear to keep warm in the snowstorms and 37 degree water. At the time, my net worth was somewhere south of $200, which only fueled my sense of inadequacy.
At the urging of my Crew Chief, Chris Runyard, I asked the folks at ProMotion Wetsuits in Hood River, Oregon for help. They listened to me story and then ushered me upstairs to their workshop, measured me, and started slicing neoprene. Within an hour they had carved the lines of a winter wetsuit with an integral hood, a 6mm thick layer of rubber around the torso, and thinner materials around the arms and shoulders for mobility.
The new wetsuit was a revelation: it made swimming in ice water possible. I was able to swim through the winter, and ultimately finish that 1,243 mile swim. I will always be grateful to the ProMotion team. Even though I could probably score a lucrative wetsuit deal at this stage of my career, I would never dream of leaving ProMotion. They helped me when I needed it most, and I will never forget their generosity. They became more than sponsors, they became friends. I have worn ProMotion wetsuits on every one of my swim days since.
Last month, as many readers will know, the motor on our escort/safety boat died. (Turns out it was cooked before we ever owned it: a warped engine block allowed salt water to intrude beneath the head gasket, corrode the cylinders, and eventually cause the power head to fail.) This unfortunate turn of events brought my swim from Montauk to NYC to a halt. Even the cheapest fix meant an outlay of several thousand dollars that I hadn't budgeted for.
Brewer Yacht Yards had been supporting the swim with free dockage as we made our way down Long Island Sound. I marshaled my courage and decided to ask them for help. (Why is it so hard for me to ask for help? Somehow, I feel like there is something wrong with me when I need assistance or support, as if I have failed somehow, and should feel ashamed.)
It was a big ask: would Brewer front the money to repair our outboard motor, and then loan me a boat so I could keep swimming while our boat was in the shop? They said yes. They didn't have to. But they wanted to see me out there swimming and advocating for clean water: for the Atlantic Ocean, for Long Island Sound, for the East River, and for the waters that all of us use and enjoy.
I am very grateful to the folks at Brewer for helping me when I needed it most.
And I am proud to call them not just sponsors, but friends.