Jim Eubank, a world-class swimmer and real estate developer, died on March 1 from complications of a stroke. He was 88.
Born in Seattle and raised in Inglewood, Calif., Eubank taught himself how to swim in the ocean. He was working as a lifeguard in Los Angeles County when the Coast Guard recruited him to serve in the Office of Strategic Services Maritime Unit, an elite underwater swimming squad, during World War II. A forerunner of the Underwater Demolition Team, the squad sent Eubank to Burma, Indonesia and the South China Sea to conduct maritime sabotage and reconnaissance missions. For his valor as a squad leader, he received an honorary green beret and membership in the Special Forces Regiment in 1998.
After the war, Eubank moved to Los Angeles and launched a career in real estate. He purchased residential properties and shops in the Hollywood Hills, then moved to San Marcos, Calif., a suburb north of San Diego, and developed a strip of restaurants known as Old California Restaurant Row. In 1995, the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce named him Business Person of the Year.
When he wasn’t wheeling and dealing, Eubank swam in ocean races. For 50 years, he won his division in the annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim competition. A stroke in 1983 led to the installation of a pacemaker, but that only set him back for a brief time. During his recovery, Eubank persuaded the doctors to grant him access to a stationary bicycle. Within two weeks, he was cycling up to 40 minutes.
Eubank swam no less than a mile a day in the three-lane heated lap pool he built himself. In the past 10 years, he set two world records and five national records in the 100-, 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter swims for his age class. He was named Masters Swimmer of the Year among males 85-89 in 2001 by SWIM Magazine, and won four out of the five events he entered at the World Masters Championships in New Zealand.
Last year, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly challenged Eubank to a 50-yard swim race. Although he was half Eubank’s age, Reilly lost by a length.