Bob Dykoski is a man of adventure and a lifelong athlete. Hazel eyes crinkled in a smile, he informed me he swam 2000 yards that morning and was glad to rest and chat! He has traversed oceans with the USS Kitty Hawk, hitchhiked and biked across America and Europe, and scuba-dived around the world. A natural storyteller, Bob knew exactly where to begin—the two big water adventures of his transitional year from high school to the U.S. Navy.
The first adventure began with a dream to race a canoe at the Aquatennial, a Minneapolis event still held annually. He and a buddy decided they needed to train despite the Minnesota winter. The only water not frozen was at a nearby power plant in Minneapolis, which released warm water into the Mississippi, resulting in a current year-round.
After portaging across the ice, the two boys successfully canoed downtown to the Stone Arch Bridge. When they turned to go back, however, water from the nearby dam upset their canoe, sending them into icy, waist-deep water. Calling for help, their paddles washed downstream, the two boys managed to clamber back into the canoe and paddle to shore with their hands, where waiting rescuers bundled them up and took them to the hospital. Once warmed by blankets and hot water bottles (and a bit of brandy, doctor’s orders), Bob’s dad, the scoutmaster, was allowed in to ask his son, “where’s the canoe?” They had used their Boy Scouts canoe!
The second adventure came that summer. A lifeguard of Hennepin County for many years, Bob would bike to his assigned beach. On his way to Lake Calhoun one morning, he was stopped by a black woman, desperate for help. Beaches were still segregated, and this woman was certain a black man had drowned. The air mattress he had been lying on was empty, she explained, and floating free.
Immediately Bob raced to the scene, where a helper suited him up in clunky scuba gear and boated him out to the mattress. Bob found the man 20 feet down on the bottom of the lake, unconscious. Rising to the surface with the man, he immediately set out for shore. With no floatation devices, it was swim or sink, and impossible to get the man into the boat. On land, Bob performed a pre-CPR technique of artificial respiration and successfully cleared the man’s lungs, saving his life. Bob later met the man, who was a teacher and piano player and very grateful to his rescuer!
The combination of swimming, boating, lifeguarding, and Boy Scouts skills led Bob to join the U.S. Navy as a nuclear weapons man— “But that’s another adventure,” Bob says with a grin.
We love hearing Bob’s stories at Sojourn and hope that you enjoy reading them!