By Jeff Holt
Published December 23, 2021 in The Burg
Tons of people say that apple pie and ice cream are just a part of the American culture. Folk heroes like Johnny Appleseed keep those stories going on and on.
Locally, in a roundabout way, you could use Tiffany Kulland and water as the same. You will often see her teaching swim lessons or water aerobics at the Knox County YMCA or kayaking with friends along the Mississippi River.
If that's not enough, she might be scuba diving off the coast of Florida.
Kulland took some time to answer a couple of questions.
Q: You said that you have given swim lessons for 22 years. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to learn how to swim?
KULLAND: My advice would be to do it. You are never too old to learn how to swim. The planet is at least 70 percent water so being comfortable in water is extremely important.
Q: You grew up with your dad as a Navy Seal. How was that?
KULLAND: I am the second youngest out of five kids so I just knew him as dad. I do feel that my dedication to succeed and my desire to accomplish tasks, both big and small stems from watching him be successful.
Q: What was it like growing up around the water in California?
KULLAND: I lived in paradise. Santa Cruz, California is the perfect destination for anyone who enjoys the outside. I grew up in the coastal mountain range of the redwood forest. Miles of 100-year-old giant trees as my backyard and a short ride to some of the most sought after surf spots in the state. I spent most of my childhood in the ocean. It wasn't until I grew up and moved away that I realized how fortunate I was to live in an area with so many opportunities to be in nature's finest.
Q: You mentioned that you have gone on some fun kayaking trips with friends and family. Can you elaborate on that?
KULLAND: Moving to Illinois was a challenge when it came to fun activities. It did not take long to find ways to still be able to surround myself with water. Through work I met a fun group of ladies and started kayaking up and down the Spoon River. It wasn't the ocean, but it was fun to have this connection with other women.
Q: You've also been snorkeling/scuba diving. What has that been like?
KULLAND: I love the calmness of being surrounded by the ocean. I like to think of the ocean like another planet. It is the stillness that you can't feel in the hustle and bustle of daily life on land. Once you are under water it is like time stands still. My mind shuts off and I am totally in the present.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment as a swimming instructor and why?
KULLAND: My proudest moment happens everyday. It is a very powerful feeling watching a toddler be able to help save themselves from drowning, or a child finding confidence learning a new skill. I have taught grandparents how to swim so they can take their grandkids fishing on a boat. I have taught parents to swim so they could enjoy the water with their children. Learning how to swim isn't just that. Learning to swim and being comfortable around water will open up an entire new world of possibilities for you.
Q: Who is someone you look up to and why?
KULLAND: I have two wonderful men in my life that remind me that your limits in life are meant to be pushed past.
My dad inspires me every day to continue to learn and be a kind person. I was fortunate to live in a house where my parents adored each other. I got to see what a healthy loving relationship looked like. My dad is not only a war hero, but my hero also. He is a strong smart talented man and has taught me to be the best version of me that I can be.
My husband Jeff Kulland would be the other person I look up to the most. He has never stopped my pursuits no matter how crazy they seem. He is always ready for the next adventure and when things get tough he just gets tougher. He stands by my side in all my craziness. I want to cage dive with great whites, so he found a way for us to do it next year. I want to take a boat down the Mississippi River, so he bought me a boat and is learning to navigate the river currents. The more outlandish my dream is the more he supports it.
Q: Can you talk about one place you would like to visit one day?
KULLAND: I want to visit the world. I don't want my adventures to ever stop. I want to see and do it all.
Q: You also teach water aerobics at the YMCA. What is that like and what do you try to accomplish with it as an instructor?
KULLAND: I am a strong believer in keeping your body moving. I feel the water has healing powers and allows anyone at any age to stay active. As an instructor I remind people that you being here today in class will make you stronger for tomorrow. I thrive on success stories and watching people overcome hurdles using the water only proves it more.
Q: Can you talk about your proudest accomplishment in the water and why?
KULLAND: My proudest accomplishment would be hands down the hundreds of people I have helped find their own love for the water. I am a firm believer that learning to swim will change your life for the better. I have seen so much joy the water brings to people. Water is cleansing. The ocean is calming and your world will open up in so many ways.