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The Reef Swimming Challenge

By Angel Nuñez
The San Pedro Annual Lagoon Reef Eco Challenge is just over and in the midst of its exciting finale, I couldn’t help reminisce on several challenges we had twenty five years ago. This ‘challenge’ was enjoyed practically every Sunday even though it did not have any prizes nor was it publicized like our Eco Challenge today.

THE KATRINKA CHALLENGE    -This was a ten foot square raft anchored half way between the beach and the reef and the challenge was for any amateur swimmer to swim from the beach to the raft or Katrinka. First let us build a Katrinka.  It is a wood structure sort of like a box, ten feet square and maybe three feet high.  There was enough space inside to fit  six metal oil drums which would keep the raft afloat.  Then it was permanently moored about six hundred yards offshore midway between the beach and the reef. As simple as that!
Now how was the Katrinka put to fun use? It was no competition.  It was just the urge to prove that you could swim from those six hundred feet out towards the reef, or in other words, swim in the deep where your feet could not touch the sea bottom. Sometimes a group of kids would be walking down the beach one Sunday afternoon and someone would say, “Let’s swim out to the Katrinka!”  Most of the kids would be excited and occasionally one would chicken out. Right there and then, the kids would remove their clothing, remain in ‘calzoncillos’ or boxers, and dash into the sea towards the Katrinka. This activity was for boys and girls and mixed groups too.  Kids as young as six or seven swam to the Katrinka, as long as they were good swimmers, or as long as they were able to swim and took up the challenge.

Once you and our group reached the Katrinka, everyone enjoyed lying in the sun, diving, swimming, jumping. And of course making it all look like fun so that those who did not have the courage to swim to the Katinka would feel like they were missing out on the fun. It was fun! That I can assure you!  It was three times more fun than swimming or diving in a swimming pool.

THE REEF CHALLENGE    -Once swimming to the Katrinka became a regular activity and it did not seem like a challenge anymore, the more intrepid boys, AND GIRLS, challenged one another to swim from the beach to the reef.  “It is not too far”, they said to encourage themselves.  “It is only about three fourths of a mile or double the distance from the beach to the Katrinka.”  This challenge was commenced by the teenagers but very soon many children who were like fish in the sea took up that easy challenge.  Once we go to the reef, we rested there in the shallow spots for a few minutes, inhaled the fresh surf of the reef, waved to our friends on the beach and headed back with a much swifter pace because we were then swimming with the waves and not against them.

Never did the kids stop a moment to consider the possibility of an encounter with a shark or dangerous animal, or a leg cramp.  Swimming to the reef only seemed far and tiresome, but not a dangerous activity and there were many Islanders who took the challenge.  On a regular Sunday afternoon, a team of four or five boys would take up the challenge.  Sometimes it was only a few boys who wanted to test or ‘show off’ their endurance, strength and courage to the girls.

In a sleeping village of San Pedro, twenty five years ago, with very little fun activities to do, the boys and girls had to find something interesting and challenging to do. And thus we had the Katrinka Challenge and the Reef Challenge.

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