Friday, August 29, 2014
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Doug Frohock hits the back bays to swim and other signs of a very early season

The warmth of the air, the lack of snow, the urge to hit the beach, all of these have made it feel like summer is nearly upon us at the shore. And then there's Doug Frohock, who moved his swim training outdoors to the back bays of Sea Isle the earliest he's ever done it.

Doug Frohock hits the back bays to swim and other signs of a very early season

   This year has felt a little like the summer season arrived in February. The warm temps, the lack of epic snow or any snow, the urge to hit the beach from near and far, the panic of editors suddenly looking for beach stories in March, all of this has made it feel like the high season is now. I even had an afternoon beer-book-beach chair reading hour last month that I usually can't indulge in until June. Kinda nice, kinda freaky. For Doug Frohock, a heating oil and propane salesman and the husband of Barbara Frohock, minister at Sea Isle Methodist Church, it was the back bays that called to him startingly early.

Frohock, 61, has been an ocean swimmer for about a quarter century and is training for his 23d Chesapeake Bay Swim on June 10th, a 4.4 mile swim that benefits the March of Dimes (and where organizers have been known to have to fetch swimmers blown way off course by currents, winds and the like). He's a regular at the Ocean City Acquatic Center, where my friend Bob ran across him, but two weeks ago on a Saturday, with the bay temps calling to him from a balmy 58 degrees, in the lagoon just off the intracoastal waterway, he dove in, a full five weeks earlier than last year's record of April 30. "I've never been in the water in March," he said. "It was perfect in a wet suit and hood."

Last year, Frohock, a father of four and grandfather of six, swam a full seven months of the year outdoors, finishing up on Dec. 5th, when the ocean water dipped to 49 degrees. With the early start this year, he might make it nine months, though he's been back to the indoor pool as temperatures dropped a bit since. In the summer, he's out there almost every day, swimming in the space in a trough between where the waves start to mount and a sandbar. It's peaceful, he says, meditative. Sometimes his wife will paddle along side in a kayak. One time, a dolphin swam with him for a full half hour.

"It really is a good time to meditate and pray," he said. "It is kind of a spiritual thing. It's so beautiful it can become a very spiritual thing, out in the open water, looking around, checking out the scenery, praying. I go down early in the morning before work, around 6:15 and spend 40 minutes along the beach in real shallow water. At different times of the year, I'll watch the sun come up. It's very moving." Doug's definitely got something figured out.

Previously on Downashore: Boardwalk Car Chase, now on video

About this blog

Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg has covered Philly police, city neighborhoods, Ed Rendell as mayor, the Jersey shore, Atlantic City, Miss America and the psychology of Eagles fans. She moved to Ventnor on July 3, 1995, which makes her a local, but not really.

Inquirer Staff Writer Jacqueline L. Urgo has spent every summer of her life at the Jersey Shore, and has lived there year-round for nearly 30 years, even fulfilling one of her bucket list dreams by once living in a house by the sea.

Since 1990, she has covered the waterfront for The Inquirer — from the Atlantic to the Delaware Bay shore — and some of the mainland in between. Along the way, she amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of this tear-it-down-and-build-it-back-up region, delving into the history and the hype of a place with a lot of unexpected stories to tell.

Reach The Downashore at arosenberg@phillynews.com.

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