Virgen’s View: Peirsol returns to roots


If you were at the Sunset League swim finals at Newport Harbor High last week and you did a double take because you thought you saw Aaron Peirsol, well, that’s because you did.

Aaron is back in Newport Beach. If you see him please welcome him as for the past couple months he’s been a Newport Beach resident.

I caught up with him last week at Newport Harbor High, where he was sitting on the grass near the entrance to the pool. He was in his Newport Beach gear, wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops, and sporting a beard.

Many know him as “The Backstroke King,” a five-time Olympic gold medalist and the world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke. I know him as simply, “Aaron.”

We caught up and talked about family, friends and career, and even laughed at the fact that Ryan Lochte has his own reality TV series. Aaron talked about how he’s turning a page in his life, leaving his home in Austin and moving to Newport Beach.

But this column isn’t really about Aaron. Because in reality, Aaron moving to Newport Beach isn’t really big news. He would tell you that.

This is more about the delight Aaron had in what he saw recently. He discovered there is a new swim club in town, the Newport Beach Swim Club, which practices at Newport Harbor High. Information can be found at

The youth swim club began training this week.

“I totally support this,” Aaron said of the Newport Beach Swim Club. “I think it’s cool that they are starting a program … That is so cool. I think this city will eat it up.”

Aaron is contemplating taking on an official role with the club. For now, he is merely backing the concept and would like to help in the future, he said.

He was a star for Newport Harbor while he was starting out as an Olympian. While growing up, he was a part of Harbor View Swim Team. But there was no active swim club with a competitive summer season like there is now with Newport Beach Swim Club.

Instead, Aaron went to swim for Irvine Novaquatics.

Aaron said having a swim club train at Newport Harbor High just makes sense. He believes it will be good for the community and direct great athletes toward swimming.

“I plan on coming here once in a while and maybe do a demonstration for the team,” Aaron said. “That is totally appropriate. I would love to be able to help if I can. I feel like I can apply that role … I totally support the team here. I would love to get behind it.”

Aaron said it’s probably best he has a loose affiliation with Newport Beach Swim Club since it is in its beginning stages. Mostly he just wants to help promote the sport he still loves.

He has been working with youth in other parts of the country recently promoting the sport of swimming as part of Arena, the swimsuit company that Aaron remains with.

Other than that, Aaron is happy to be in Newport Beach.

“I have nothing bad to say about [Austin],” he said. “If anything I could say it was hard to leave. It was one of those things that I was ready for a change. I love the ocean. It had been a while.”

Aaron also says he loves to write. During the Summer Olympics he went to London and wrote stories for the New York Times. He said he enjoyed taking in the action from basically a fan’s perspective.

He said he remains a fan of swimming and loves the sport. He thinks about coaching in the future, but for now that is just a thought.

His sister, Hayley, lives in Berkeley, where she is teaching. She had been competing in triathlon.

Aaron’s mother, Wella, wrote a book recently, entitled, “Buoyant,” which talks about her life and raising Aaron and Hayley as a single mother and then later with her husband, Tim Hartig.

They now live in Costa Rica. I’ll write about Wella and the new book soon.

Overall, it’s great to have Aaron back in Newport.