Florida Feature by Nick Gandy, Florida Senior Games
Hubie Kerns, a swimmer newly relocated to Fort Lauderdale from Pacific Palisades, California, dove in the Plantation Central Park Pool this morning and swam 400 yards in a combined five minutes and 29 seconds to win a pair of gold medals.
That’s a pretty big deal for a 72-year old athlete competing in the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana. Well, it is. But it isn’t for Kerns.
That’s because Hubie Kerns has forged a long career as a stuntman in television and movies, specializing in car and water stunts.
Beginning in 1969, Kerns was in high performance car chases, flipped cars, fell from great heights into the water and did stunts for more than a few recognizable names.
His list of credited stunt work on IMDb.com includes 375 movies and television shows stretching from Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970 to recent Fast and Furious movies.
Diving into the pool from the starting platform is like a walk in Plantation Central Park for Kerns.
All of that was in the past at the 2022 Games as Hubie roamed around the pool deck comparing times, practice schedules and swapping swimming stories with fellow athletes from Florida, Texas and California.
He was an All-American swimmer in high school, swam in the 1968 Olympic Trials and earned a swimming scholarship to the University of Denver. Like most Senior Games athletes, family and careers got in the way.
“There was no swimming from age 21 to 50,” Kerns said. “I got back in the pool because I was out of shape and needed some conditioning.”
He had just started competing in Masters swimming and was working his way up the ranks when he broke his leg doing stunt work.
“Someone screwed up and ended up hitting me,” he said. “I did a flip in the air and broke the bone so bad, it wrapped the muscle around my bone.”
A botched surgery by an emergency room doctor that didn’t line up the broken bone correctly, led to another operation to re-break the leg and correct the previous surgery.
“The doctor told me I could get back into the pool after the wound from surgery healed,” Kerns said. “Once that healed, I got in and started swimming by kicking with one leg.”
After five months of recovery, he returned to the pool for Southern California Championships and recorded the 10th fastest breaststroke time ever in the age group.
His time of 2:36.96, Sunday in the 200 yard Individual Medley, is the fourth fastest time in the history of the National Senior Games, in the 70-74 age group, just behind his time of 2:30.58 in the 2019 Albuquerque Games. He closed out the day with the seventh fastest time in the 200 yard breaststroke, swimming the eight laps in 2:53.56.
In the 200 yard breast, he topped fellow Floridian, Rudy Vazmina, the 2015 Florida Senior Games Male Athlete of the Year, from Sarasota, by six seconds.
“I’ve always been a good breast stroker,” Kerns said. “When I first moved to Florida, I started training at the International Hall of Fame Pool and that’s helped.”
The work has paid off as a swimmer into the 70-74 age group. To qualify for the 2022 National Senior Games, he won five gold medals at the 2021 Florida Senior Games, while setting records in the 200 yard breaststroke, 200 yard butterfly and 400 yard Individual Medley. All five of his races were 200 yards or more.
Things have calmed down for Kerns since doing stunt work in Transformers movies, Wild Hogs and Dodgeball.
“I’m enjoying life and swimming,” he said. “We bought a house to flip it recently and did such a good job we kept it.”