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  Tackle Ironman

Article courtesy of...

Swim Guru Neilsen to Tackle Ironman Oct. 13

By Brendan Shriane
Friday, October 5, 2007 9:01 AM HST

Eric Neilsen and his wife, Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen, moved to the Big Island in 2004 to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in San Diego.

He said they liked the slower pace of life they found here -- a place where they could just walk down to the beach in their slippers and bathing suit and hop in the warm waters for year-round swimming, which was important to Pipes-Neilsen, the masters swimmer and occasional West Hawaii Today columnist.

"The water, more than anything else, brought us to this island," Neilsen said.

They also liked the atmosphere in Kailua-Kona. "It felt like a nice community," he said.

A year later, Neilsen, who has 18 years of swimming and endurance-race coaching experience, and Pipes-Neilsen, who has 162 FINA Masters World Records as a swimmer, had turned their passion for swimming into a full-fledged business, Aquatic Edge swimming instruction.

"Now we're doing the swim thing, and we love it," Neilsen said of the Kailua-Kona-based business, which offers swim technique clinics and camps as well as private swimming instruction.

While the business is based here in Kona, the swimming clinics often take them around the world. He said they've taught at 60 clinics in 23 states and four countries this year alone. They recently returned from freestyle and multi-sport clinics in Seattle and the San Diego area.

"It's great when you can take a hobby and something you're passionate about and make a living from it," said Neilsen.

Surprisingly, the man who now makes his living teaching swimming didn't do much swimming until he went to college. "I wanted to do a triathlon in 1985, but I didn't know how to swim terribly well," he said.

So he took a swimming class and liked it so much he ended up playing junior college water polo at Diablo Valley (Calif.) College.

"And the hook was set, and I've been involved in aquatics ever since," said Neilsen, who's originally from the East Bay town of Alamo, Calif., and describes himself as an Oakland Raiders fan "from the old days."

It's appropriate, too, that his path takes him to where he'll be in the early morning hours of Oct. 13 -- lining up to swim the 2.4-mile leg of the Ford Ironman World Championship.

Neilsen, 41, will participate in his first Ironman Championship this year, 22 years after taking up swimming in order to participate in an Ironman event.

He's been training for this year's race in earnest since qualifying at June's Ford Ironman 70.3 Hawaii.

"I'm enjoying the experience," he said.

The Ironman will cap a successful year of participating in endurance events -- he ran April's Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 56 minutes -- a personal best for him.

"I draw on what I've learned from my students -- it's a two-way street," said Neilsen, who coaches a number of triathletes.