When Bali Fedalizo heard about Ocean Fever, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating kids about ocean safety and environmental awareness, his background as a competitive swimmer made him a natural fit.
And when Bali heard about Ocean Fever’s 25.1-mile ocean swim to raise awareness for teen mental health, his background as a Scout made him a natural fit to sign on.
Last fall, Bali, his sister and four other swimmers tag-teamed the epic swim in about 13.5 hours.
“We had just come off lockdown,” says Bali, a 16-year-old Life Scout. “We couldn’t really see our friends in person. That can really mess with your mind.
“Swimming has been a major part of my life, especially since we live near the water. I wanted to help other kids because they like to swim, too.”
Bali says the mental and physical skills he learned in Scouting definitely helped prepare him for the event.
“The Scout Oath says to stay physically fit and mentally awake, and for something like this, you’ve got to be on point,” he says. “And being prepared helps a lot because we had to get everything ready for this. A lot of planning went into it. Being prepared just helps in general.”
A swimmer at heart
Bali, a member of Troop 854 in San Pedro, Calif., is no stranger to long-distance swimming. When he was 10, he completed the Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim, a challenging 2-mile swim along Hermosa and Manhattan beaches.
To practice for the Ocean Fever event, he, his sister and one of their friends would swim from the Hermosa Beach pier to the Manhattan Beach pier. All the while, he continued to play football, compete in mixed martial arts, and work toward his Eagle in Troop 854.
To increase the chances of the swimmers experiencing the calmest water possible, the 25.1-mile swim began at 11 p.m. and ran into the next day. The six swimmers would take turns, swimming for as long as an hour at a time before letting another swimmer take over. The active swimmer was supported by a kayaker while the others rested in a larger boat nearby, waiting for their turn to re-enter the water.
Bali estimates he spent 2-3 hours total in the water.
(Note that swimming events like this are not authorized as official Scouting activities. Click here for the BSA’s aquatics safety rules, including the policy on distance swimming in open water.)
“It was definitely tiring,” he says. “You have to brace yourself mentally for how cold the water can get.
“I practiced so much for this swim; I thought, ‘I’m here. I’m going to finish it. Or else what was the point of all that practice?’ ”
A lifesaver, too
Bali says his swim stroke of choice for the most part was freestyle.
“We could use whichever stroke we wanted to do, and I mostly did freestyle,” he says. “My favorite stroke is breaststroke, but I think it’s a little bit slower than freestyle.
“If I did feel a little bit tired, I would do the backstroke and maybe cruise a little bit to regain my strength.”
The swimmers rotated in and out of the water all the way up until the very end, when all six got in together, including his sister, Abigail.
“It was really fun to do that with her,” Bali says. “When we’d get mentally tired, we’d splash each other just to keep each other awake.”
The charity event is not the only time Bali’s swimming and Scouting skills came in handy. When he was 13, Bali earned the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action from the Red Cross for saving the life of an 11-year-old swimmer. Bali was swimming with his cousins when he noticed that the girl was being pulled away from shore by a strong current. Utilizing the training he received while working on the Lifesaving merit badge, Bali reacted quickly and swam the girl back to shore.
“Scouts has been wonderful for him,” says his mother, Gertrudes . “It’s really prepared him well.”