Work/Life Balance

Retired judge who helped set swim record at 85 makes 'best law decisions' in the pool

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More than 20 years after retiring from the Florida bench, Judge Robert Beach still spends up to 10 days a month in court as a senior jurist and swims a 4,000-meter daily workout.

But he took a vacation earlier this month to swim a relay race with five other octogenarians in the Catalina Channel, near San Diego. At 85, he was the oldest. They set a record for their age group, eclipsing what a team of 70-somethings had done a few years earlier, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

In 1968, when he was appointed to the Pinellas-Pasco circuit court bench, Beach was in his late 30s, smoking three packs a day, and couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without breathing hard. He quit cold turkey and went back to the sport he had enjoyed in high school, swimming. That led to his competition in masters swimming events.

In addition to prolonging his life by improving his physical condition, swimming is good for him mentally, Beach says. “It’s gotten me through some personal problems in my life, like my divorce. I’ve made some of my best law decisions right there in the pool. I’ve got all this time by myself, nobody is interrupting me and I’ll be thinking about some case and decide, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ It’s a great influence, emotionally and physically.”

His later years might not have been easily predicted for those who knew Beach as a young man. He says he could have been thought of as something of a juvenile delinquent, in today’s terminology, and was kicked out of high school in California for “mouthing off.” But after hitchhiking to Florida he put himself through the University of Tampa and Stetson University College of Law, working as a bartender.

At one point in his life, Beach came within a few miles of swimming the English Channel. He loves to travel, and has been all over the world.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he told the Tampa Bay Times in 2008. “I love my life.”

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