By JOHN DE GROOTE
Stephens Media Hawaii
Steve Borowski’s resume as a waterman is longer than some books, so it’s only appropriate that aquatic king of Kona now has a permanent home in the Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame.
Borowski joins legendary past Hall of Fame honorees Duke Kahanamoku, Eddie Aikau, Nappy Napoleon, Rell Sunn and Nainoa Thompson.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Borowski said. “I have been inducted into multiple hall of fames the last few years, but this is really special.”
Borowski has been inducted into the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame, Illinois Water Polo Hall of Fame and Chicago High School Sports Hall of Fame.
The Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame was initiated in 2010 to create a lasting tribute to the Hawaiian Islands water sports legacy and honor the achievements of Hawaii’s standout watermen and waterwomen.
The criteria used to select inductees are based on sustained outstanding contribution to the sport, and international, national and local accomplishment and recognition.
Jennifer Stabrylla is a member on the board of the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame and recommended Borowski for the honor.
Stabrylla stressed that Borowski’s personality is what put him over the top for prestigious award.
“Steve is so humble, and that’s the reason a lot of people don’t know about his accomplishments,” Stabrylla said. “For Steve it has never been about himself, but more what he can do for others.”
Borowski has a more than 60-year love affair with the water.
Growing up in Chicago, he began swimming competitively at the age of 4 and started playing water polo at 7.
“I was in the water from a very young age,” Borowski said. “I grew up with a swimming pool about half a block from my house, and it was always available for me,”
Borowski became a high school All-American in both sports and attended Indiana University on scholarship.
At Indiana he was part of the university’s first two NCAA Championship swimming teams and was again an All-American in both swimming and water polo.
“If it was not for swimming I don’t think I would have ever gone to college,” said Borowski, who was the first high school and college graduate in his family. “It got me out of the inner city and away from a bad environment. Swimming moved me forward.”
Borowski was able to seamlessly transition from athlete to coach in the years that followed.
After being an assistant at his alma mater and helping coach multiple world-class athletes leading up to the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Borowski made the move to Hawaii — the only appropriate place for a waterman of his caliber.
Borowski became the Punahou head swimming coach and led both the boys and girls teams to 13 consecutive state championships. The school was the winningest program in the nation and never lost a dual meet during the time.
During his time at Punahou he also coached Chris Woo to a berth on the 1976 Olympic swim team and saw his pupil shatter multiple state records.
Locally, Borowski is known for starting the Kona Aquatics, Kona Masters and Kealakehe High School programs.
At Kealakehe, he coached the girls swim team to a state runner-up finish last season and to a state title in 2010. It’s Kealakehe’s only state title in any sport.
“He’s worthy on more than one level for this honor,” Stabrylla said. “Before this I only knew him in the swimming and coaching context. He’s so much more than that.”
Away from the pool, Borowski is an avid body surfer, spear fisherman and underwater photographer. He also been instrumental in designing multiple aquatics facilities throughout the state and serves as the organizer for numerous races state-wide.
“It’s only recently that I have learned precisely how deep is his knowledge of all things aquatic and of his love, support, and respect for the ocean,” Stabrylla said. “Steve’s spirit truly resides in the waters of Hawaii.”
Despite multiple inquiries to coach prestigious college and national teams around the globe, Borowski cannot see himself anywhere else but in Hawaii.
“I have turned all the offers down with no regrets,” Borowski said. “I love coaching, and I love teaching people. When I made the decision to coach swimming in Hawaii it was never for the money. Hawaii has become a really important part of me, and I don’t think I could live anywhere else.”
The Waterman Hall of Fame awards dinner takes place Aug. 22 at the Outrigger Canoe Club in Oahu.