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CIU Student to Swim around Key West – Again

May 21, 2013

At age 52, Bill Haselden has lived a lot of life. After earning an MBA from the University of South Carolina, he went on to develop a successful business career, first with Fortune 500 manufacturer Rockwell International, and then founding Pet Lover’s Warehouse, a chain of pet supply stores, which he sold several years ago.

While ruminating on a number of other new business ideas, he finally responded to a repeated request from an old friend to consider taking classes at Columbia International University Seminary & School of Ministry. That old friend is CIU Professor Dr. Rick Higgins.

“I finally met Rick for lunch in February of 2011 on the campus of CIU,” Haselden said. “He took me on a tour and I fell in love with the place. Later that spring, my wife and I attended the Preview Day. Afterwards, I told her that I felt like God was leading me to enroll in the seminary.”

Haselden is enrolled in the Biblical Ministry Certificate program and is considering pursuing a master’s degree from the seminary. He says at this point, his main goal “is to absorb as much of the teaching as I can and allow God to apply it to my life.”

But before he does any more studying Haselden has another ambition: on June 8 he plans to swim 12.5 miles around Key West, Fla. – for the seventh time. He has swum the annual event in as little as 5 hours and 47 minutes, fighting the tides and tropical storms.

More than an annual physical challenge, the Swim Around Key West has turned into a missions trip for Haselden. He says the race director is a local pastor with an evangelistic outreach to the swimmers. “I have the distinct privilege to be involved in ministries there,” he adds.

Haselden, who draws spiritual applications from his pursuits of endurance, remembers his first Swim Around Key West.

About a mile into the swim he says “the winds kicked up and it began to rain so hard that I could not see the shore. I had no idea which way I was swimming.” Each swimmer is accompanied by a kayaker – for Haselden it was a personal friend who was having his own troubles dealing with the six-foot swells.

“(But) through it all I knew my kayaker was still with me,” Haselden said. “He would be riding up on a swell and I would be at the bottom of a swell. As we passed each other, he often hit me with his paddle by mistake. I could hear his muffled cry, ‘Sorry!’ Several times I stopped to tread water to try to site for land. Each time I got a big wave in my face and choked. So I kept swimming in the direction I hoped was correct. At least when I was swimming I wasn't choking.  The storm went on for about an hour. I was expending much more energy than I had ever done before on any training swim.”

When the storm passed and the sun came out, Haselden and his kayaker were told that the race was cancelled by the Coast Guard. Not being sure of the source of the news, they continued the race with Haselden’s body experiencing numbness and then pain.  

“At mile number 10, the feeling returned to my poor arms,” Haselden said. “I flipped over onto my back and asked my kayaker to throw me a bottle of water.  He did, but it had been out in the hot tropical sun for so long that it literally burned my tongue. It was all I could do to continue.  We finally made it to the finish line and I crawled out of the ocean.” 

But the race had indeed been cancelled due to an overwhelming number of distress calls received by the Coast Guard. So, the finish was unofficial.

Haselden, lists a number of practical and spiritual lessons of faith and endurance from his first Swim Around Key West, including:

God is an ever-present source of comfort and help.

Finishing the race is its own reward - even when the world considers it "unofficial."

Don't ever give up.

Cool water is more refreshing to drink than hot water!

“This year, Lord willing, I plan to be standing on the beach in Key West with my kayaker on Saturday June 8 for the 2013 swim.” Haselden said. “Dr. Rick Higgins has graciously volunteered to be my kayaker this time!  I've asked him to please ice the water and try not to hit me with his paddle!”

Click HERE to find out how Bill Haselden finished in this year's race.