Meet the Wizard of Water
By Jeremy Brown
Larry Koffer has been swimming all his life, but his biggest challenge is yet to come.
For Club Fit swimming instructor Larry Koffer, being in the water is just a way of life. “I love swimming,” he says, “and I’ve been doing it all my life, one way or another.”
Born and raised in the Bronx, Koffer began swimming in the Bronx River and was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. “I wasn’t the fastest guy on the team,” he said. “I remember when we’d swim, my coach would use a sundial to time me!” Koffer, however, is just being modest. In fact, he was the Bronx Park Department 100-meter swim champion in 1964.
From swimming in the river to swimming in the pool, Koffer knew that he had found a second home in the water. From then on, he was always trying to find a way to get wet, diving in whenever and wherever he could. When he sold his construction business, the opportunity suddenly presented itself to make swimming a full-time pursuit. “Looking at retirement, I thought, what am I going to do?’” he said. “So I became a Red Cross instructor.”
Koffer’s Red Cross training eventually paved the way for him to become a swimming instructor at Club Fit. At the club, he says that he gets a particular thrill from passing on his love of swimming to people.
“I love teaching people how to swim,” he says. “It’s magical to me. Swimming is an out-of-this-world experience. It’s the perfect exercise and it’s very meditative.”
He says that he really enjoys being able to work with people who aren’t used to being in or around the water and seeing that “moment” when it all clicks for them. “I teach a lot of adults,” he says, “and they haven’t learned how to swim, and they’ve got some anxiety about it. And to get them loosened up and approach swimming as fun, when they get it, it’s like bells go off. Suddenly it all fits.”
Koffer’s enthusiasm and passion for swimming has earned him the nickname “The Wizard of Water.” Although, in the interest of full disclosure, he admits that he is responsible for the moniker.
“On some memo, I signed off as ‘the Wizard of Water,’ and it stuck!” he says, laughing.
After a lifetime of swimming, Koffer is about to undertake his most exciting challenge on the water, a one-mile swim across the Hudson River, from Newburgh to Beacon, on July 28. The swim is a charity event to raise money for the care and maintenance of the River Pool in Beacon. Even more than the challenge of swimming across the Hudson, Koffer is excited about the feeling of unity that comes when a group of swimmers all get together. “I love being on the beach with hundreds of water babies, swimmers who are all loving the water, some are skilled, some are Olympians or near Olympians, national champions,” he said. “But they’re all loving the water, and it’s just like this camaraderie. Some want to swim for a record, some just want to be in the water.”
After crossing the Hudson, Koffer might try for a two-mile swim, he said. But, whatever comes next, he is just grateful for every day in the water. “When I was in junior high school, my best friend’s family had a house on Lake Mahopac, so I came up here 50 years ago,” he said. “And now, to be back here as an adult, living here, swimming in the lake, having wonderful friends…this is perfect.”