Weather & Links
Rayner lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He began swimming in the
womb and hasn't stopped since. However, at age three, he was traumatized
by an episode of Sesame Street in which the letter "D" in which ended
everything in sight was sucked down a D-is-for-Drain. From that day
forward, Neal would only venture into the deep end of the local pool
on the safety of his mother's back (it had large, rusted out, scary
looking drains). Neal has had an uphill struggle ever since.
While Neal goes over drains and swims in deep water with apparent
ease, he says, "I actually prefer very murky water with about 3 feet
of visibility because I forget to get scared. When I can see 25 feet
sort of well and things are moving in the shadow my heart rate goes
through the roof. Yes, rusty drains still give me chills."
Neal is currently a member of the Dolphin Club in San Francisco's
Aquatic Park. He does the bulk of his open water training here and
ironically enough loves playing around the historic boats and old
piers in the park and along San Francisco's waterfront.
"Its one of the most enjoyable places I've ever swam, and watching
the sunrise from the water over the bay is simply magical," he says.
The beginning of his swimming career was in the Marin Swim League's
Strawberry Swim Team and then with the Tiburon Peninsula Club where
he was coached by Ken and Rick Demont, the latter an Olympian. In
high school, he joined the Marin Pirates while swimming for Tamalpais
and coach Warren Lager.
"I was very lucky to have such excellent coaches who had a great sense
of how to teach technique and get you in shape while also making sure
you were having fun. What they gave me has lasted my entire life."
Water polo hooked Neal in high school. Playing summers with the earlier
form of Marin Water Polo, Neal raised the level of his game and became
Tamalpais' first high school All-American player as well as being
named All-American at the National Junior Olympics. He went on to
play for UCLA, where he discovered that he was a really good player
but not a great one.
"I continued to raise the level of my game in college, but the talent
level was insane, which left me relegated to the bench or B team."
"But it was also exciting. We would practice, scrimmage and play with
some of the best players in the world. It was fun just to get in and
play with guys I'd watched in the Olympics and my favorite thing to
do was take on the best player I could find and shut him down completely."
For a summer job, Neal worked as a lifeguard on LA's beaches (now
don't start in with those sexy Baywatch daydreams yet, the bio isn't
He took up triathlons to satisfy his competitive urge and get back
in shape. While doing over 40 triathlons including an Ironman distance,
Neal joined the Dolphin Club to focus more on his specialty of open
"I was getting frustrated because as much as I love biking and running,
I would come out of the water in a triathlon with the leaders and
then get passed by lot and lots of people in the bike and run. So
when I feel like doing well, I do an open water race."
As Neal says, "My life is great right now full of great challenges,
lots of friends and lots of love."