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Garrick Snider — The Zen of Water

An avid swimmer since youth, Garrick Snider enjoys participating in a series of open-water swims designed to test the skill and endurance of swimmers who can go mile after mile in big bodies of water like rivers, lakes and oceans.
November 26, 2019
  • Garrick Snider
  • Garrick Snider
  • Garrick Snider
  • Garrick Snider
  • Garrick Snider
“Swimming is my Zen,” Garrick muses. “I guess it’s the calming effects of water that call to me. I remember going to the pool every summer when I was growing up, and I would be there from eight in the morning until it got dark.”

The Zen of water

Avid swimmer Garrick Snider of Capital Projects Finance (FIN-CAP) glides through water effortlessly, moving his head from side to side as strong arms and legs propel him through the open water, its ebbs and flows sometimes helping him, sometimes hindering him. A bright sun and clear sky loom above him, and all around him are the fluctuating currents of water. In the distance, he spots a sandy shore and starts to make his way toward it.

Many people would be uncomfortable miles from land, floating in a body of water that can be cold and unpredictable. Since he was a child, Garrick has embraced water, at first spending his summers at local pools and later taking to the sport of swimming.

“Swimming is my Zen,” Garrick muses. “I guess it’s the calming effects of water that call to me. I remember going to the pool every summer when I was growing up, and I would be there from eight in the morning until it got dark.”

Garrick participated as a member of the Los Alamos High School Swim Team. He earned a scholarship in diving to attend New Mexico State University. After college he become a master swimmer, and it was during this time that Garrick discovered the sport of open-water swimming, which takes place not in the confines of pools but in vast outdoor bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, bays and ocean.

Garrick-Snider-3.jpg

Garrick Snider prepares for a swim at the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center in Los Alamos.

 

Escaping Alcatraz

On June 12, 1962, the Anglin Brothers and Frank Lee Morris made their infamous escape from the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Under the cover of night, the trio boarded a makeshift raft and swam hard toward nearby Angel Island, which was two miles away. The fate of these men remains unknown, with many believing they actually made it across in unforgivingly ice-cold water.

A shot of Alcatraz Island taken from the San Francisco beach. That’s one long swim.

A shot of Alcatraz Island taken from the San Francisco beach. That’s one long swim.

 

Inspired by this great escape, EnviroSports since 1992 has sponsored the annual Sharkfest Alcatraz swim. This sold-out event attracts swimmers from around the world, including Garrick and his training partner Laverne Johnson. This open-water swim is far from easy—the sponsor recommends that at a minimum a participant must have the ability to swim without rest 2.5 miles in a pool before even considering it.

“We traveled by ferry to Alcatraz Island, where we were given time to get ready for the race,” explains Garrick. “Once everyone was lined up at the edge of the ferry, an official blew a horn and about 800 of us jumped into the water. We all took a short swim to a starting point. They blew the horn again and the race was on to see which one of us could swim to shore first.”

Garrick had participated in the Alcatraz swim about 15 years ago and only recently started up again. “I certainly would not be doing these open-water challenges if it wasn’t for Laverne Johnson (a former collegiate swimmer for the University of New Mexico),” says Garrick. “A couple of years ago, I ran into her and her husband Jay, and she asked me about the race and whether I wanted to try it again. The following day, I got an email from Laverne. She said she had signed up for the race and that it was now my turn. That’s how I got into these open-water challenges all over again."

(Jay Johnson, Laverne's husband, is LANL's executive officer of operations.)

 

Knowing where you are in a sea of blue

Lavern Johnson and Garrick Snider pose for the camera before taking the plunge in the annual Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim. This swim is not for beginners—it is for experienced open-water swimmers only.

Lavern Johnson and Garrick Snider pose for the camera before taking the plunge in the annual Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim. This swim is not for beginners—it is for experienced open-water swimmers only.

 


“The hardest part of an open-water swim is navigation. There are no lines to follow like there are at the bottom of a pool. The current can take you off course, there are few markers other than buoys up top and water conditions are unpredictable. You must keep your head up, and always know where the next marker is, so that you can adjust accordingly and make it to shore.”


 

EnviroSports offers many open-water races, in addition to the Alcatraz swim. They sponsor races in Boston, New York City, New England, Washington DC and Zihuatanejo (Mexico).

“This year, Laverne and I participated in swims at Lake Tahoe in August and San Diego in October,” says Garrick. “We’re just getting started.”

One of the hardest things about open-water swimming is getting bored. “The scenery doesn’t change much, it’s just an ocean of blue,” says Garrick with a chuckle. “You feel as though you are not making any progress. It’s times like these where you have to work to retain focus and keep swimming.”

Garrick was also a member of the New Mexico Masters Swimming, part of the United States Masters Swimming organization. “Water is part of who I am, so it was only natural that I would become a member of this organization,” Garrick says. “I encourage anyone to get into the water. Let it become a part of you.”

Garrick Snider took first place at the San Diego Open-Water swim, held on October 13, 2019.

Garrick Snider took first place at the San Diego Open-Water swim, held on October 13, 2019.

Garrick Snider is a financial analyst who works for Capital Projects Finance (FIN-CAP).


Resources

Sharkfest Swims

Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.