WeissCrax: Like dad, Dulawan twins are making a difference in community

Local boys Chris and Nick Dulawan have been successful in expanding the swimming program at the Elings Aquatics Center. (Photo by Randy Weiss)

It’s one of those absolutely gorgeous Santa Barbara summer mornings …

Sun shining first thing.

No trace of that bad marine layer …

It’s not even 9 a.m., and at the Elings Aquatic Center on the Dos Pueblos High campus there are already signs of life.

Little life … as in kids everywhere!

Most are happy — except for a couple of screamers on deck.

A wave of swim lessons is well under way – a la “Parent & Child” and toddlers enjoying a safe bonding and water experience. There’s Joee Dutrisac, age 4, receiving individualized instruction with her instructor encouraging her alongside … and there’s one adult lesson near the eastern sidelines, all taking place on the northern, shallow end of this beautiful 50-meter pool.

Chris encourages 4-year-old Joee Dutrisac during a swim lesson.

There are all kinds of equipment and apparatus, such as a moveable, underwater platform (aka “pirate ship”), used as a launching pad for kids swimming on their own to the sidelines, and a zillion Styrofoam, long, slender “noodles.”

Blue pop-up tents and benches provide shade and seating for parental spectators.

Plus, the largest black fishnet curtain you’ve ever seen is draped across the width of the pool about 25 meters out – it’s for water polo practice but today it ensures that none of these pint-sized swimmers “bolt” like local USA Olympian Mark Warkentin in open ocean waters.

Behind all this activity are two cool, young dudes, both bearing a striking resemblance.

Coaches Chris and Nick Dulawan, 25, are fraternal twins.

“No, we’re really identical twins. The doctor’s messed up,” Nick, younger by an hour, chides.

On the outside — both have identical builds, and the obvious differences are hair (Chris has longer) and beard (all Nick).

But it’s when you talk to them for a few minutes you can begin to see the differences on the inside.

Both are local public school products: Kellogg Elementary, Goleta Valley JHS and DPHS Class of 2004.

Both played all sports growing up and at DP they whittled it down to volleyball and water polo.

Why water polo?

“Guys in water polo are so much cooler than guys in other sports,” — that’s what elder sister, Leiha, told them.

It was all they needed to hear.

After DP graduation, it was off to Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo, where they played water polo and assisted veteran coach John Marsh.

Plus, toss in some lifeguarding at the school pool and swim lessons.

Two years later, with two Associate degrees in two hands, Chris sailed with Semester at Sea via the University of Virginia.

Nick took over the Dos Pueblos summer swim program in 2008.

And Nick happily landed in SB, where he coached summer water polo while soaking up as much knowledge from local swim coaches like UCSB’s legendary coach Gregg Wilson.

The next year (2007) Chris returned from the high seas and docked at Long Beach State, where he studied hotel management and taught swim lessons.

Nick joined him there; taught swimming at the YMCA and worked with Junior Lifeguards.

In the summer of 2008, Nick took over DP’s summer swim program — then much smaller and with more limited hours (11 a.m.-4p.m.).

“It was our goal to have the pool opened all day and be filled with people,” Nick told Presidio Sports.

Chris would join Nick during the summer and, after both graduated from Long Beach State in 2009, he would leave for Europe to put more ‘spice’ on his hospitality education.

“France is awesome!” Chris said.

Now back together again this summer and living at home, their pool dreams have come true — this summer’s swim program went from 60 kids a day to over 200, not including camps, and expanded hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Nick is really organized and Chris is always in the water with the kids,” says Joe Zamora, DP hoops coach and summer pool deck supervisor. “They put a lot of energy into it and are having a great impact on the community.”

“Elings Aquatic Center is a hidden treasure with two gems in Nick and Chris teaching and coaching,” adds Dawn Schroeder, founder of Momentum-4-Life, a local fitness group. “The Bubbas (as their mom refers to them) have the unique ability to share knowledge of aquatic sports with all ages, young and old(er).  They are so personable that they make you immediately feel comfortable and ready to tackle the water!”

After this summer season ends on Aug. 18, it is Nick’s turn for travel and adventure — two days later he’s heading east to Manchester, Vt., to coach at a team-building camp.

Meanwhile, Chris will stay local — he’ll help 2011 CIF women’s water polo Coach of the Year Chris Parrish and pal Paul Wilson coach both the DP boys team and the multi-time CIF defending champion girls water polo team, currently riding on a 67-game winning streak.

And despite the separation, they won’t be far apart.

They give each other credit for where they are today…

“Everything we’ve done, we’ve been able to succeed. We both have someone at the same level. Like, we don’t have to hit a tennis ball against the wall, we can play against each other,” Nick said.

And about their internal similarities and differences, here is their “he said/he said” …

Nick: I tend to be more assertive while Chris is more mellow.

Chris: I’m regarded as more social and out-going. Nick is polite but he usually gets right to the point.

Nick: He has more friends while I have fewer but ‘more better’ friends.

They rarely fight or not get along.

“It’s kinda like having your best friend around all the time.” Chris offered.

One thing is obvious, they have the “aquatics” in their gene pool — Mom, Debbie Dulawan-Boe, also teaches swim lessons in the afternoon.

“It’s interesting having your sons be your boss but they’re awesome and very good with the kids,” says Mom, proudly. “I’ve taught swim lessons for many years, but my boys have taught me much about swimming.”

“What sets us both apart is that we try to maximize each learning opportunity – to study under great coaches like Bobbi Houghton, Robin Perrin, Jim Ranta and Gregg Wilson and build upon our experiences to be the best coaches we can be. We learn from others … and we help each other,” Nick said.

And about those “coaching and community genes,” well, they get them from their dad, too.

It’s been said that “nobody put more time and effort into youth sports in Goleta Valley” than Mike Dulawan.

His 1997 induction into the prestigious Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame was posthumously, as Mike suffered a fatal heart attack a few months earlier at the too-young-age of 37.


In that SBART introduction: “Mike and his energetic wife Debbie found time for all kids in Goleta Valley.”

Debbie now says that it’s reciprocal in that “it does take a village to raise a child. With Mike’s tragic passing, many coaches stepped up and helped raise my sons and for that I will always be grateful.”

And what a great job they’ve done!

It’s clear today as the twins move seamlessly between lessons … they are sharing their passion … living their dreams … building on a legacy of helping others. Especially kids.

Like when Nick says:

“One thing I’m proud of: We offer scholarships as we are trying to teach our community how to swim, regardless of their financial situation.”

As for their future, wherever life takes them … and whether together or apart.

These cool, good-natured Boys of Summer Swim will always have each other and that, of course, starts with their great gene pool.

It’s easy to see the resemblance …



  1. And as wonderful a portrayal as this article was, Nick and Chris are even better in person. They run a wonderful swim program and are incredible people!