Mastering Body and Mind With Swimming at UCSF

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Every day, rain or shine, the swimmers at the Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center are bringing their best to the pool. These individuals, serious about fitness, are part of the U.S. Masters Swim (USMS) team known as “Bay Masters” under the guidance of Coach Doug Huestis. On the second floor of the fitness center, you’ll notice a wall full of prestigious awards that the Bay Masters team has won from multiple competitions.

A variety of active adults—former competitive high school swimmers, triathletes, cancer-survivors and those who just love the water—make up this team of dedicated swimmers. Striving to improve their fitness and ability, they share the love of this gratifying sport. Some take the plunge daily as part of their training for triathlons and other competitions, while others join Masters Swim to improve their overall well-being and gain rewarding friendships. (Participation in competitive events is optional for all team members.) Not only are these individuals committed to fitness, but they also share a loyalty to the team.

“Swimming is the best workout that I know for both the body and the mind. Physically, it challenges both your aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Mentally, it gives you the chance to both find and push against your limits,” says Clayton Jones, member of the Fitness & Recreation Center at UCSF, and Bay Masters team swimmer since 2005. “Being a part of a Masters team also provides a wonderful opportunity to meet a very interesting, diverse set of people. The friendships and camaraderie with my teammates keeps me from hitting the snooze button and pushes me a little bit harder at the end of a workout.”

Coach Doug Huestis, who founded the Bay Masters Swim Team at Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center at UCSF Mission Bay in 2005, has been a life-long competitive swimmer and has coached numerous teams since 1967. When asked what he enjoys most about coaching his team, without hesitation he says, “To help people achieve what they didn’t think they could.” With a Masters in Exercise Physiology, 60 years of his own swimming mastery and a passion for developing effective training techniques, Coach Doug brings his winning formula to the team at UC San Francisco. He knows without a doubt that anyone can achieve a higher level of fitness if they have the desire to excel and just show up and try. 

Bay Masters Swimmer Julia Pak, who’s been on the team since 2008, says, “It's simply impossible to name a single benefit to something that becomes so integral to your daily life… Coach Doug is exceptional in his knowledge of the sport and coaching experience. If you are already driven, he will provide you with the means to achieve your goals. If you are not, he will help you find that drive.”

The team’s oldest member, Ralph Brott, has been swimming with Coach Doug since 2000 and has won multiple competitions regionally and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in the 1500 meter freestyle event. That swim also set a Pacific Masters Swimming record for that event (in the 70-74 age group). He was a daily runner from his 20’s through late 40’s, until a combination of air pollution and nerve damage took a toll on his ability to run and his daily practice of swimming began. 

“When I moved back to San Francisco and was teaching high school, swimming every morning was how I would manage stress and stay focused. Then in 1999, I joined Masters Swim. What I like about Coach Doug is that he’s a very hands-on, strong kind of coach who stays actively interested in my practice.” 

Beyond the awards and competitive aspects of swimming, Ralph says swimming is what keeps him in shape and healthy. Having survived cancer, he attributes his swim practice to being one of the most effective means of managing the stress. His doctor tells him to keep swimming and he says he’s “addicted” to it. “I feel good. I’m active. Being on the Masters Swim team provides tremendous rewards and I’m around good, healthy people. If anyone is thinking about joining a Masters Swim team, don’t think too much about it. Just give it a try. ”

To learn more about Masters Swim at Bakar Fitness & Recreation at UCSF Mission Bay, please visit: or call Aquatics Manager Danski Perez at 415.502.4446.