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