The Crowd: Supporters dive in for Newport Aquatics

The white cliffs of the Dover Shores Back Bay area provide a spectacular backdrop of the best of the natural Newport Harbor.

Saturday evening, on the close of a perfect summer day, some 200 residents gathered at the Newport Aquatic Center amid late afternoon kayakers, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts to celebrate Summer Soiree 2012, a fundraiser for the center.

They came in tank tops and flip flops, summer frocks and hula-themed sportswear to share some significant local pride welcoming the return of water polo Coach Robert Lynn from the London Olympics.

Lynn, a former youth star polo player at Wilson High School in Long Beach, then at USC, followed by a dozen years of professional water polo participation in Europe with some of the most competitive and outstanding teams on the planet, was hired by Newport Harbor High School to lead the boys' water polo program. He left his post at Los Angeles's prestigious Harvard-Westlake School to come to Orange County.

"Southern California and in particular Orange County is the center of the universe when it comes to the sport of American water polo," Lynn said. "My goal is to create a program here that is balanced, healthy, competitive, and enables our young people to reach goals such as playing for college teams and for some even beyond, including participation in future Olympics."

Lynn, who served as the assistant head coach for the U.S. Olympic men's water polo team was circumspect, sharing with Newport parents the team's performance at the 2012 Olympics.

"We had extremely strong competition from such teams as Croatia and other countries where water polo is regarded as a major national sport and supported as such," he said. "Many of our players have followed varied career paths and some of them came back to water polo only recently in order to form the USA squad.

"Could we have done better? Perhaps. But we are proud of our participation all the same. My job in Newport is to help create the next generation of outstanding American water polo players."

Many of the parents in attendance echoed Lynn's sentiment adding that they felt fortunate to have such a qualified coach and his handpicked staff to work with their children during their important school years.

Chairing the aquatics evening were Alewa Olotoa, Karen Ferraro and Marena Padden. The triad of hardworking ladies put on one of the most fun events of summer in Newport, including a massive silent auction organized by Padden, Kristen Potter, Truly Boring and Paige Kunkle. Organizers, who are still tallying receipts, report happily that a significant profit was realized.

As the sun began to fade, VIPs addressed the crowd including Lynn introducing his entire coaching staff with special mention of Pavle Filipovic and Stefano Ragosa. Newport Aquatics board President John Debrott thanked the crowd for their support, joining board Chief Financial Officer Tom Robinson and Secretary Park Eddy Jr. pressing the flesh with fellow aquatics enthusiasts. Also front and center for the event was major aquatics booster and former water polo star James Fowler attending with his pretty wife, .

Enjoying the amazing catering by Christopher Roman's Knife, Fork + Spoon were Leslie and Jon Bobb, Pam and Jeff Edson, Arlene Silvers, Mike and Alison Hatcher, Wendy Boyd, Amy and Bob Tafoya, and Rene and Matt McLaren. Also supporting Newport Beach Aquatics were Tori and Rene Rimlinger, Tracy and Mike Parks, Mark and Carol Knaeps, Marissa Wayne, Heidi Debrott, John and Eleyn Yeager and Chad and Cari Peets.

Adding a little summer flair to the party, Olotoa invited her troop of Hawaiian fire dancers, which included her water polo-playing son, to spin a little magic for the crowd.

To find out more about Newport Beach Aquatics visit

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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