A VISION • Year 1: Dallas, TX
Our founder, Bryan Mineo, was born with an intrinsic love for the ocean. He often dreamt about spending time by its shores, and swimming in it’s perilous and pristine waters. However, raised in Dallas, Texas, over 250 miles away from the nearest sea, he felt the distance between his passion and the ability to access it. In an attempt to bridge the gap, he took his first open water swim at a nearby lake.
As a seasoned, competitive pool swimmer, Bryan showed up to the lakeshore expecting the transition from climate-controlled, chlorinated water to fresh lake swimming to be a breeze. Instead, the unfamiliar environment sent his system into survival mode, where he found himself gasping for air and struggling to stay afloat. Determined to face his fear, he returned daily to that same lake, teaching himself how to navigate the newness of open water swimming. His intuitive connection to the water kept him coming back day to day. As his love for the lake grew alongside his skillset, Bryan wished to share swim science and his passion for open water with others.
In 2011, Mineo Athletics was founded to invite locals to fulfill their love for natural water sources, as well as to learn swim mechanics and safety- all while overcoming the primal fears triggered when exploring unfamiliar territory. Clients gathered and a swim community was born.
A LOVE STORY • Year 2: Los Angeles, CA
As 2012 rolled in, Bryan’s love for the ocean called him to move to Los Angeles, CA where he could expand his skillset to the sea. His first dip in the great Pacific Ocean made him feel like a kid again, blissed out by the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. He returned to his practice learned at the lake to visit the ocean daily to overcome new fears: waves, tides, and currents made this big body of water even scarier. His status as a big fish in a small pond in Dallas quickly tumbled, as he learned to navigate the complexities of ocean swimming. Again, his love for community inspired him to invite others to join along.
Bryan founded his coaching business, The Swim Mechanic, as well as a free weekend meet up group called SMOG (Swim Mechanic Ocean Group). The first group of three people- Bryan, an Olympic swimmer, and an ocean beginner- met on a Saturday morning to swim together. Early on, the group prided itself on being an inclusive community where everyone of all skill sets were welcome. Organically, the group slowly grew.
A STRETCH OF SHORE • Years 3 & 4: San Diego and San Francisco
The tides turned for SMOG in its third year, as Bryan moved South to San Diego, while Megan (that once nascent swimmer) shifted North to San Francisco. Suddenly, SMOG had active swim groups in three locations. More came flocking to these shores up the coast of California to master swim techniques, face their fears, and enjoy the freedom of ocean swimming.
Quickly, the cleanliness of beaches and seawater became a priority for the various swim teams, as they walked or swam past trash that filled the sand and seaways. The teams agreed they would gather before the swims to complete communal beach sweeps, where litter left behind would be properly disposed of.
The teams encouraged Bryan to gather donations to support SMOG’s commitment to safe swimming in clean oceans. So, he brought a used and very official Halloween pumpkin bucket to the next practice, wrote SMOG on the front, and began collecting resources to support the cause.
A SHIFT IN IDENTITY • Year 5: Three New Locations
SMOG’s communal and financial capital continued to expand as new locations opened up throughout the country. Bryan knew the various teams needed to be united under one organization, so he began dreaming about a non-profit.
Board members and volunteers gathered to support SMOG in becoming a 501(c)(3) called One With the Ocean (OWO). They felt this to be a more fitting name as it describes the intimate relationship that the swimmers feel when communing with the water and each other. People gave abundantly of their gifts: bakers brought cookies to the practices, writers wrote blog posts, soap makers would share their bath products with the community. The team spent more and more time together not just in the water, but communing at coffee shops as well.
One With the Ocean began to attract national and international media attention, being featured in magazines that covered topics such as tri-races and open water swimming. All of the sudden, One With the Ocean was noticed on a global stage attracting brand partnerships, initiating the creation of awesome swag gear, and inspiring even bigger dreams in the minds of the community.
A SURPRISING LAUNCH • Year 6: Four New Locations
Then 2020 hit and the unexpected shifted the narrative on beaches and in board rooms. Funding was cut, the budget was slashed, and beaches were closed to prohibit the spread of COVID-19. The team was worried of the impact this would have on the community and organization. The year brought a number of unanticipated challenges, but some surprising growth as well.
As soon as the beaches reopened, the group grew greatly. Gym and pool closures forced folks to reconsider their workout routines leading them to the open water. One With the Ocean offered safe, inclusive swims that invited the opportunities to exercise, connect with nature, and be together in a time where stagnation, stir craziness, and isolation were the norm.
Five new locations were launched to meet the ever growing need. Additionally, two big new programs found a surprising amount of success during such a restrictive time: Play in the Waves and The First Annual Beach Sweep. Play in the Waves fulfilled Bryan’s dream of increasing ocean accessibility by bridging the gap between underserved communities and the ocean. OWO provided transportation, the necessary gear, and ocean safety skills for a number of kids who had never been able to swim the sea. The First Annual Beach Sweep gathered 330 volunteers to collect over 2,000 lbs of trash across 133 miles of California coast line, all within safe pandemic protocols.
A LOOK TO THE HORIZON • Year 7 & Beyond: Five New Locations
As 2021 approaches, OWO looks forward to continuing to expand nationally and internationally. It dreams of sharing its vision of ocean accessibility, safety, and conservation with others through the Play in the Waves program and additional Beach Sweeps.
Mostly though, OWO is excited about showing up to the shore with the people we love most, diving into the depths of that chilly and abundant body of water, celebrating the diversity of our backgrounds and skillsets, and gathering to share stories of overcoming fear and establishing unity between us and the ocean.
The ocean called to Bryan all those years ago, has drawn a community of committed athletes and advocates to its shores, and awaits the work still left to do to ensure it’s safe and accessible for all who wish to enjoy it. One With the Ocean accepts the ocean’s invitation and welcomes you to come along.