Kinda O.T. All the cool camera features in the world don't mean much if you arrive ten minutes too late...

Rip Esselstyn. The Austin Swim Club Pool. 

A couple of weeks ago a very nice radiologist e-mailed me and asked me to make a portrait of him. He was joining a large, Austin practice and they needed to have a headshot of him to use in the offices and on the company website. I was delighted and, after discussing our schedules, we decided the weekend would work well and that Saturday at 2pm would be perfect. I put the appointment on my calendar and went about my business.

A week and a few days later I started hearing rumblings about a masters swim meet coming up. I went to the website and looked at the info. The meet was scheduled of the same Saturday as my portrait shoot. I thought about entering the meet because it's at a new outdoor facility that features a 50 meter, long course pool. It's been years since I raced long course but I thought it might be
fun to enter some shorter races like the 100 freestyle or 100 butterfly.

But once we book something at Kirk Tuck Photography and Video we never change appointments for our own convenience. Emergencies? Yes. But swim meets hardly count as emergencies. No swim meet for me. I made it to my pool all through the week for scheduled workouts and, near the end of the week, heard that one of our elite swimmers, Rip Esselstyn, was going to race at the meet on Saturday and was trying to break the world's record for the masters 200 meter, long course backstroke for the (very competitive) 50-54 age group. I really wanted to go and see it happen.

In fact, Rip asked me if I could come and shoot video of the event. I let him know about my previous appointment but told him I'd rush on over as soon as I finished and try to catch it.

My radiologist showed up right on time and, coincidentally, he is a swimmer as well. The session went smoothly and we finished up around 2:30pm. The masters swim meet was scheduled to start at 1:00 pm but I figured that if it was like most Austin events it would start later and take longer than most people might suspect. I had a camera set up and packed to I got in the car and drove the ten minutes to the pool, parked and hurried inside.

Sadly, I missed the event by only ten minutes. Rip missed the record by a couple of seconds (which is soooo close in a 200...) and I missed getting to  make video of him in action. But, his wife and three kids were there and I had a Panasonic FZ2500 in my hands so I got to work making some fun family portraits. Then I shot photos of his warm down in the pool and finally made this (above) shot of him at the pool end.

It's not what I set out to do but sometimes life and schedules take precedence. Next time Rip and I will plan further into the future and I'll be ready. Then I can be sure to be there when he does break the record. Should be cool.

The pool the meet took place at is the Austin Swim Club on Southwest Parkway in Austin. It's a brand new pool and it's total focus is elite athlete training. The head coach is six time Olympic Medalist and 24 time All American, Brendan Hansen. I'm thrilled that I got to get a look at the pool and see the program in action. This is exactly what Austin needs more of: 50 meter, year round swimming pools. In fact, I often dream of digging up every football field in Texas and replacing them with 50 meter competition swimming pools. Our part of the world would be a better place.


  1. I want a fifty meter pool in my back yard! Actually there is a new swim club starting about eight miles down the road that claims they will have a fifty meter pool up and running (swimming) in a couple of years.
    As a former backstroker I will be interested in how Rip does.

  2. Hi Fred, Rip missed the record by two seconds. He went a 2:19 which for long course meters is pretty darn fast.

  3. Kirk, I'm sure you know about Rip's distinguished career outside the pool, but your readers might want to learn about Engine 2, a celebrated Austin-based story where the entire, manly UT firehouse crew went vegan/plant-based, because of Rip Esselstyn's challenge to them. If his fire-fighting buddies couldn't beat him in one-hand push-ups, climbing up the fire-pole without using feet, etc, they would have to eat Rip's plant-based diet for 20 days. Well, Rip won and they changed and to a man, became healthier and better fire-fighters, among other benefits. In terms of keeping Austin weird, and weirdly healthy, you can't do better than reading more about the http://engine2diet.com. Clearly his diet makes him a powerhouse swimmer as well. Credit Rip's kind nature and gentlemanly ways to his dad, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. of the Cleveland Clinic, who was largely responsible for making Bill Clinton into a vegan.


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