Waterfront: May 2004

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Media Darlings

Pools and hot tubs make headlines.

Spa and pool professionals got a little help from the daily press to kick off the pool season. Major stories in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Orlando Sentinel spread news about pools and spas to about 3.3 million readers (the combined circulations of the three papers). And the news was good.

The Wall Street Journal ran a major feature in its Feb. 13 "Weekend Journal" section. "Backyard on Ice," covered the growing trend of year-round use of outdoor living spaces. Along with ice rinks, snow machines and greenhouses, hot tubs are a popular season-extending purchase, the Wall Street Journal reported. The writer quotes Cal Spas' Casey Loyd, who notes that winter-season sales of hot tubs are growing more rapidly than warm-season sales.

The Orlando Sentinel devoted the entire 30-page "Homes" section of its Feb. 29 edition to its 2004 pool guide. The editors of the award-winning daily did such a thorough job on the special section that they ought to reprint it and distribute it through retailers and builders. Topics include pool safety, remodeling, new construction, cost, accessories, and how to work with a builder. There are several profiles of happy pool owners, from the famous to the everyday. A cagey pool builder might show this feature to local media as an example of the type of story that just about any reader would enjoy.

Perhaps most significantly, The New York Times, in a story in the March 5 "Escapes" section, declared that the hot tub has officially shed its unsavory association with "alternate" lifestyles. "Spas are now wholesome amenities designed to promote relaxation, healthy living and family time," writes reporter Denny Lee.

You can't buy that kind of advertising.

Sands of Time

In 1953 at the Sands in Las Vegas, sun worshippers didn't have to choose between slots and swimming.

SonarGuard Founder Named "Fast 50" Innovator

Navy search-and-rescue technology protects homefront.

Robert Jechart's determination to make the swimming pool industry safer has led Fast Company magazine to name him one of this year's "Fast 50" innovators. He is among 50 entrepreneurs profiled in the March issue of Fast Company.

Jechart is the founder and CEO of RJE International, a company that provides advanced sonar technology used for Navy search-andrescue applications. In 1999, Jechart formed sister company RJE Technologies to develop sonar technology for SonarGuard, an invisible and fully automated sonar swimming pool security system.

"It's a great honor to be among the 50 esteemed innovators selected by Fast Company," says Jechart. "We consider Fast Company's recognition of RJE Technologies as a company dedicated to its vision of creating the most technologically sophisticated pool security system available today a testament to our work."

Fast Company, a leading magazine for management innovators, conducts an annual search to recognize 50 individuals whose achievements have significantly advanced their companies or industries. Fast Company editors read approximately 1,650 entries before Jechart was selected as one of the magazine's "Fast 50" innovators.

"The Fast 50 are the elite businesses and individuals with the vision and personal commitment to propel their companies and industries into the future," said Fast Company Editor-in-Chief John Byrne.

Founded in 1996 and published monthly, Fast Company focuses on ideas, trends and people devoted to innovation and managing change in today's economy.

Swimming To Antarctica

An extraordinary athlete's career as a cold-water and long-distance swimmer.

Early- and late-season pool maintenance can be a bear, since dealing with cold water in cold weather leaves hands chilled to the bone. But that's nothing compared to swimming the Bering Strait or a mile to Antarctica. And Lynne Cox, a world-renowned distance swimmer and member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, has done both — without a wet suit. Her new book, Swimming To Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer, chronicles her inspiring adventures as she swims through some of the most treacherous waters on earth.

At 14, Cox discovered her love for ocean swimming during her first open-water race off the shore of Southern California. In the 3mile race she placed third overall, and then just an hour later, feeling nice and warmed up, she entered the competition's 2-mile race and won. After that she set her sights on the English Channel, and at age 15, she broke the men's and women's world records for that swim.

The challenges she set for herself continued to grow. At 18, she swam the 20-mile Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, was caught on a massive swell, found herself after five hours farther from the finish than when she started, and still completed the swim. She was the first person to swim the Cape of Good Hope at the southernmost tip of Africa, and she barely escaped with her life. Great whites, tiger sharks and bronze whaler sharks frequent those waters and shortly before she finished her swim, a bronze whaler emerged from some kelp, its jaws wide open. It was shot as it headed straight for Cox.

But the swim she is perhaps most proud of was the Bering Strait crossing in August of 1987, when the cold war between the United States and Soviet Union was still quite frigid, yet beginning to thaw. She had hopes that her swim would help lower tensions between the two nations. But before swimming the five miles across the strait, she had to muddle through an ocean of red tape. Finally, just hours before her scheduled swim time she received permission to land on Soviet soil and then accomplished her crossing in 38-degree water.

The book ends with her amazing story of swimming a mile in 32-degree water off the shore of Antarctica. She wasn't sure if she could handle water that cold for that long, even though years before she had realized her body was different: Instead of losing body heat in cold waters as most people do, she could retain and even elevate her body temperature as long as she kept swimming. But 32-degree water was a whole new level of cold. However, she sprinted the distance and reached her goal in 25 minutes.

During a lecture to a group of elementary and high school students in Callaway, Neb., a seven-year-old boy asked Cox, "If you had a goal and worked very, very hard toward it, but you didn't accomplish it, would you still be happy?"

Cox replied: "I would have been happy that I tried to reach my goal, but if I didn't succeed, I would want to go back and figure out what I thought I needed to do to accomplish it, and then try again."

A friend told Cox she should have advised the boy to reevaluate his goals and lower the bar if necessary. In response, Cox said, "I asked myself if I would follow that advice, and I decided that's not the way I do things. I don't lower the bar. Maybe it's because the bar's not high enough or maybe it's because I work toward goals in reachable steps."

— K.E.

Swimming To Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer

By Lynne Cox

Alfred A. Knopf

ISBN 0-3754-1507-6

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