At the age of 53 I was blessed to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) joining all-time swimming greats such as Janet Evans, Mark Spitz and Johnny Weissmuller to name a few. Competition is stiff to be considered, let alone inducted, and since its inception back in 1965 only 14 "Masters" swimmers have been honored.
While an amazing accomplishment in itself, what is even more amazing is the circuitous, near-death journey I took to get there.
As a teen I was coached by two-time Olympic gold medalist Mike Troy at the Coronado Navy Swim Association (CNSA). A versatile swimmer, in 1977 at the age of 15 I won the 400-yard medley while competing at National Junior Olympics. Based on my speed, talent and ability, I was often reminded I had the potential to qualify for the Olympics.
That very same year I experienced the effects of an alcoholic buzz. Right away I knew I wanted that feeling again. I didn't care that it came in a bottle. Swimming was hard, drinking was easy. Over the next few years my times slowed and my grades suffered, yet I was still fast enough to receive 15 full athletic scholarships offers to attend college. I chose the University of Arkansas and lasted 1.5 years before flunking out. I returned Coronado and for the next 12 years drinking influenced every aspect of my life. I attempted to return to college, but ended up dropping out six times. As for work, my "party" lifestyle made me very unreliable and I was fired often. The only thing I knew for certain was that my life was in a complete free-fall and I was powerless to stop it.
It took me a while to sink below the surface, but by the age of 31 I was a round-the-clock drinker waiting to die. I had hit rock-bottom. Gratefully, my mother Adrienne Pipes intervened and I was sent to a ten-day rehab to detox. It was a nightmare I never wish to relive, but it was during this time I rediscovered HOPE, found the courage to change and as a result my life turned around.
In the process of recovery, I returned to the source that created both pleasure and pain in my life…the water. The rest is aquatic history...and my book. The Do-Over, My Journey from the Depths of addiction to World Champion Swimmer was published in late 2015. Available on Amazon.
It wasn't long before I rekindled my love of the water and the results soon followed.
At the ripe "old-age" of 35 I was offered a full athletic scholarship to attend California State University Bakersfield (CSUB). Since I had lost my scholarship as a teen due to my drinking, this opportunity for a collegiate DO-OVER brought me full circle. I will always be grateful to the swim coaches in my life (Eric, Patty and Pat) that believed in me long before I believed in myself.
At CSUB I became the oldest person to set NCAA record, won three individual NCAA DIV II titles and our team place second overall. Of note, I swam 8 seconds FASTER in the 400-yard medley than I did when I was a junior national champion at 15! I graduated from CSUB Cum Laude with a degree in Communications and Public Relations in 1999.
Today I am blessed to have set over 22o FINA Masters World records, and have broken more than 350 U.S. Masters National records and in all four strokes. In 2007 I was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF). In 2012 I was voted as one of the Top-Ten masters swimmers of all-time by Swimming World Magazine. In 2015 I was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISOF) and in 2018 I was inducted into the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame.
Over the years I have discovered that my true PASSION and PURPOSE is not about breaking records, it's helping others to swim faster. Hence, in 2004 I started a swim technique coaching business called Aquatic Edge after moving to Kona, Hawaii. In 2005 I installed an Endless Pool and have not looked back since. I feel very blessed to be able to share my love of the water with others whether it be at a Faster Freestyle, Open Water or Multi-stroke workshop worldwide, a swim technique presentation for coaches and athletes, or seeing clients at a swim camp or a series of private lessons in Kona.
My other passion is speaking! I am a professional inspirational speaker that openly shares a very real and often raw, you-won't-believe-it, odds-defying comeback story that will leave an audience awed, entertained, and left pondering the question...If I could, what in my life would I like to DO-OVER? Invite me to speak at your next event.
Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame class of 2018
International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) class of 2015
Voted by Swimming World Magazine Top 12 World Masters Swimmer of the Year in 2017
Inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) class of 2007
In 2017 Karlyn set 10 FINA Masters World and 20 USMS National records for the 55-59 age-group
Set SIX FINA Masters World records for 55-59 age-group in Europe January 2017
Set FOUR FINA Masters World records for the 55-59 age-group in San Diego July 2017
Voted TOP TEN Masters swimmer of All-Time by Swimming World Magazine
Has set 233 FINA Masters world records to date, 33 records still stand as of Jan. 1, 2019!
Has set over 352 U.S. Masters National records to date
Currently holds 28 FINA Masters World and 64 U.S. Masters National records (as of July 2016)
Karlyn is a versatile swimmer setting FINA World and US National Records in every stroke
Karlyn’s records stand the test of time spanning SIX age-groups: 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49,50-54 & 55-59
8 USMS Long Distance Records for 35-39 & 40-44 (3,000 yd., 6,000 yd, 5k & 1-hour postal)
2012 World Masters Swimmer of the Year voted by Swimming World Magazine
2009, 2008, 2007 & 2004 World Masters Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine
Female U.S. Masters Swimmer of the Year 1997, 2002& 2003
Top Ten Masters Swimmer of the Year 1994 to 1998, 2000, 2002 & 2003
611 time USMS All-American achieved by earning #1 national ranking in an event
18-time USMS All-Star achieved by earning the most #1 rankings in an age-group in a year
Cover of SWIM Magazine April 2005, February 1998 and September 1995
Cover of Fitness Swimmer Magazine, October 1997
Swam for Cal State Bakersfield on a full-athletic scholarship in 1998 at age 35
NCAA Division II record holder in 200-yard backstroke from 1998 to 2001 with a time of 2:00.54
Oldest athlete to set and/or hold an NCAA record at the age of 35 in 1998
Won three events at NCAA Division II championships 100/200 back, 400 medley 1998
8 time NCAA Div. II All-American for CSUB
Set 4 National Community College and 5 State Community College records in 1996-1997
Set 12 Palomar College school records and two-time Student-Athlete of the year 1996-97
2-time Pacific College Conference Swimmer of the Year
San Diego Hall of Champions Amateur Star of the Month 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000 & 2002
A USA National Qualifier 1995-2000 and 2004 (placing 10th 200 back in both 1996 and 1998)
Bronze medalist at the 2013 ITU World Aquathlon (1k swim, 5k run) Championships, London, UK
Three-time 50-54 age-group winner at Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Triathlon 2013, 2014 and 2015
2nd female overall at the Hilo Olympic distance triathlon 2014
2012 USAT Aquathon (1.5k swim, 10k run) National Champion
First woman (at age 55) and fifth OVERALL at the Cinco de Mayo Splash, May 2017
Fifth place OVERALL at the 2016 Hapuna Rough Water Swim at age 54
Overall Winner-Kukio Blue Water 1.2 mile swim 2004 & 2006 and overall female winner 2004 to 2008, 2011
Top female, 2nd overall& new course record Hapuna RWS 2004-2010 (Hawaii)
Top female & new course record for the 1.2 King Swim, July 10th 2004, 2008 (Hawaii)
2004 Maui Channel Swim Overall Winning Team RCP Milers (Hawaii)
Overall Winner for the 2004 Cinco De Mayo Splash 1-mile swims at Waikoloa (Hawaii)
2nd female and 12th finisher overall and division winner La Jolla Gatorman 3 mile 2003
1st Female 40-44 age group and 2nd overall 2003 USMS National 3k champs, Clemson, SC
Overall winner of Coronado Optimist One-mile Cable swim from 1995-2003
1999 5k Open-water USMS National Champion for 35-39 age group, Catalina Island
3-time overall (female) winner of the Gatorman 3-mile at La Jolla 1993, 1994 & 1996
Only swimmer to win “Daily-Double” Gatorman 3-mile/one mile swim combo 1994 & 1996
La Jolla Rough Water One-mile Swim Champion for 30-34 & 35-39 from 1994 to 2001
Overall (female) winner Coronado 4th of July Rough Water swim from 1994-2001
Overall winner & course record holder for Base-to-Base Military Swim from 1994-1998
Karlyn Pipes was drowning. It didn't matter that she was a world record-breaking Masters swimmer or even a lifeguard. She no longer had the strength to save herself from an addiction that was threatening to pull her under one last time. Then the phone rang. A lifeline had been extended. Would she grab it or sink deeper? Death was hours away, but choosing life meant doing everything different. Everything.
In the darkest period of her disease, at the age of 31 Karlyn found the courage, strength and resilience to turn her life around by returning to the one thing that had created both the pain and pleasure in her life…the water. She returned to heal. Today, Karlyn is one of the most accomplished competitive swimmers in the world and has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Launched in late 2015, Karlyn’s autobiography The Do-Over takes the reader on an aquatic journey from the depths of addiction to becoming a world champion swimmer. Candid, compelling, and insightful, this is a beneath-the-surface look at a remarkable, odds-defying comeback—not just in the pool, but more importantly, in life.
Karlyn is available for book signings, personal appearances, and panel discussions relating to addictions, eating disorders and co-dependency.
“The Do-Over is a wonderful story of addiction and recovery with the sport of swimming as the backdrop. Karlyn Pipes’ unembellished description of her childhood and life in the grips of alcohol addiction made me cheer for each of her hard-won victories, and her quest for wholeness. Karlyn’s description of our sport is spot-on; both its torments and joys.”
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D.
CEO Champion Women, Olympic Gold Medalist
"The Do-Over: The Karlyn Pipes Story is an inspiring story of rediscovering authentic self, confidence and spirituality. I found it extremely enlightening. A well written book for anyone needing an inspirational pick-me-up."
Gary Quinn - Bestselling Author, Life Coach, TV Producer and founder of The Touchstone For Life Coaching Program