Learning How To Tread Water From My Dad And Tom Selleck
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Learning How To Tread Water From My Dad And Tom Selleck

Lessons from Magnum, P.I.

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Learning How To Tread Water From My Dad And Tom Selleck
Magnum PI

"Shroud of Darkness" will be back with Scene 5 next week! Click to catch up with Scene 4: Saving Grace. Continue reading below for my interim story.


Magnum PI + Detroit Tigers + Rolex + Storytelling =
Learning How to Tread Water


There are reasons why swim coaches use variations of treading water in swim workouts. It takes endurance and strength, and coaches can modify it with different kicks, arm use, or even with brick weights for an additional challenge. While I have used treading water in my practices as a conditioning tool, I also use it as a reminder of a basic water safety skill. Though no one is truly safe from drowning (even collegiate and Olympic level swimmers are susceptible to various conditions in a practice or race), there are skills that I believe everyone should have to at least drastically reduce the odds of drowning, even if you're not a competitive swimmer. One of these skills is treading water.

I'm lucky: I was born in Southern California with a pool in the back yard and a mom and dad ready to put me in swim lessons. It's still sometimes hard to believe that the little girl who didn't want to put her face in the water is now a collegiate swim coach. But the lesson I remember most from back then is how I learned to tread water.

My dad and Tom Selleck taught me.


To some, Magnum, P.I. is a show with a heartthrob star, a hot Ferrari, and cheesy storylines. To me, Magnum, P.I. is so much more. It's the goofy relationship between Magnum and Higgins. It's the honor of serving your country. It's a beautiful view of the not-so-touristy part of Hawaii. And a pretty kick-ass theme song. But most of all, it contains valuable life goals or morals that I try to emulate, just like many of my other favorite movies or shows do.

The first episode of season 4, "Home From The Sea," tells the story of how Magnum has always spent the 4th of July paddling alone in the open ocean since Vietnam. While Magnum is out on the water, his friends spend their time playing polo, watching a baseball game, and doing other social activities. But during this particular year/episode, a guy in a speedboat races past Magnum, resulting in huge waves that cause Magnum to capsize and lose his surf ski. Miles away from shore and stuck in the Molokai Express current, he realizes that the only way to survive is to tread water and wait for a boat or aircraft to spot him. Swimming will only weaken him and gain him no ground. So he waits.

Treading water not only teaches conditioning, but also mental endurance. With only waves to look at and the hot sun beating down, even the calmest person can seem A.D.D. after mere minutes. Throughout the episode, Magnum flashes back to scenes from his childhood, when his own dad was teaching him how to tread water. Shots exchange between close ups of Magnum's dad's Rolex, counting the seconds by which 5 year old Magnum achieves new treading water records, and Magnum's dad cheering him on.

Other flashbacks show his dad leaving for deployment, with young Tommy promising to reach his goal of treading water for a whole hour by the time his dad comes home. A year later, Tommy has held up his end of the deal. But when his dad is supposed to come home on July 4th, Tommy and his mom find out that his dad is home, but in a coffin.

By the end of the episode, grown-up Magnum has been treading for over 20 hours. His friends have luckily realized that something is wrong, and are on the way to find and save him. With a last flashback to Magnum Sr.'s funeral and young Tommy wearing his dad's loose Rolex on his wrist, the episode closes. Then came my lesson.


After the very first time I watched this episode with my parents, we drove to our neighborhood pool (by this time we were living in North Carolina), and my dad showed me how to move my arms and legs in rhythm for treading. We worked on extending the length of time I treaded, just like young Magnum did in the episode. Simple techniques, but requiring time and patience to perfect. And the rest really is history.

Moments like that are why TV shows and movies are so meaningful to me. It's why my ringtones are all TV and movie themes, and why Star Wars posters line my walls instead of girly quotes and designs. Ideals, characters, and situations from my favorite shows and movies give me standards to look up to, quotes to live by, and lessons to keep in mind...just like the lesson of treading water. All of these are priceless, creative, and very close to my heart. And you can be sure, whenever I have kids...I'm showing them "Home From The Sea" before teaching them to tread water.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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