Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Santa Cruz Stories: Sjamsir Sjarif - Swimming Is His Life, One Lap At A Time

"On April 18, Sjamsir Sjarif will once again celebrate his birthday by swimming his age: one lap for each year. That means 74 laps this year, more than two miles. It's a ritual he has performed on every birthday since he turned 47. But it's much more than just exercise. ‘I'm not just counting laps,’ Sjarif says. ‘I'm reviewing my life.’ He explains that when he first sinks into the water, he imagines being in the womb again. ‘Then I begin the first lap, the first year of my life.’ During his initial three circuits, Sjamsir says, he creates images from stories told by his mother. ‘The fourth lap starts the real memories of my life. And so on - until the last minute of that year." His expressive face opens into a wide smile. ‘I feel peaceful in the water.’ Sjarif swam his first birthday laps in 1982 after a three-week class at Harvey West pool. ‘Before that, I just knew how to splash,’ he chuckles, demonstrating. Now he always travels with his swimsuit and goggles, watching for a pool. His regular swim site, Harvey West, is closed this year; instead, Joe Schultz, director of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services, has offered him complimentary admission to the Simpkins Swim Center on April 18. Born in Indonesia, Sjamsir was the son of a grade school teacher. He followed in his father's footsteps, earning a degree in education and history before teaching at the junior high level. He also keeps busy and healthy at his gym, 24 Hour Fitness. ‘I do TKB (turbo-kickboxing) and zumba - I recommend that to anyone,’ he says. ‘Also salsa and other dancing.’ He laughs delightedly. ‘Often I'm the one man. I love that.’ Will Sjarif continue his yearly birthday swim? ‘Absolutely. All my life.’ And considering that one of his father's siblings lived to be 114, he may be in for a long swim.”


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