Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach: An Epic Open Water Adventure!

Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach:
An Epic Open Water Adventure!

 

Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach 2018 successfully took place in challenging ocean conditions

Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach 2018 successfully took place in challenging ocean conditions

By Julia Galan

 The second annual Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach took place on Sunday, January 21st, 2018 during a wild and windy morning along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This one-mile race marked the first of the three events that comprise the 2018 South Florida Swim Series – and what a beginning it was!

Conditions were rough for this premier open water event: large swells, chop, and Portuguese man o’war were some of the challenges that participants faced along the way. But it is precisely this unpredictability that motivates race director Jonathan Strauss to host the South Florida Swim Series each year.

“You can never choreograph an open water swim event. But when we came up with the idea of a swim series, we chose different times of the year so that we can roll the dice and hope that we get days like this! At the end of the day, open water is all about inconsistency, and being able to have the element of surprise. It’s about how you challenge yourself…and we really challenged people at this event”.

Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach 2018: Interview with Race Director Jonathan Strauss from Swimspire on Vimeo.

Conducted in cooperation with the City of Fort Lauderdale, and the Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue, Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach and the South Florida Swim Series had two main missions in mind: to provide participants with the ultimate winter ocean experience and to raise funds and awareness for the H20s Foundation, a non-profit that provides underprivileged individuals with the opportunity to learn how to swim – a lifesaving skill.

And with around 230 swimmers registered this year, that mission was certainly fulfilled. Participants hailed from across Florida and several neighboring states, and the event attracted a wide variety of athletes, from die-hard open water enthusiasts, to triathletes, to members of the Special Olympics. All swimmers enjoyed the challenging experience. As Wes Hardin, winner of the men’s 35-39 age group category, enthused, “The 2018 Swim Fort Lauderdale was everything the South Florida Swim Series embodies – extremely challenging, competitive, and rewarding.  Poseidon’s fury was evident from the moment the sun broke the horizon, yet the Swim Series team did a fantastic job ensuring everyone was safe as they trekked south.  Excellent first leg of what continues to prove to be the best open water swim series on the East Coast.”

Participants battled rough surf for the 1-mile event

Participants battled rough surf for the 1-mile event

Victor Mestre, brother of two-time Venezuelan Olympian Alberto Mestre, also participated this year. He writes, “…what an adventure a 1-mile swim can be! Cold water and six foot waves…The Fort Lauderdale swim series was an awesome challenge this year and an unforgettable experience. Keep it coming, we want more!”

Swimmers who successfully completed Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach were awarded a special finishers medal, which, as it turns out, is not just any average finishers medal. This award makes up one part of a 3-6 piece puzzle of medals that participants can collect if they attend every event in the series. Explains Jonathan Strauss, “…last year we started the puzzle initiative where the finisher medal for each of the three events in the South Florida Swim Series makes up a part of an overall puzzle. We kept this going this year, so participants can have the chance to attend all 3 events over the course of two years. If they attend all 6 events over two years, they also get to put together the 6 medals to make a special plaque when they complete the series”. This indeed makes for a fun way to entice participants to attend the full South Florida Swim Series!

Director Jonathan Strauss with several Special Olympics finishers

Director Jonathan Strauss with several Special Olympics finishers

In terms of finishes, racers were organized into age group categories, with Special Olympics participants were classified into individual and unified categories. Top three overall winners in the female division were 14-year-old Mallory Schleicher in 22:06, 16-year-old Ashley Cozad in 22:41, and 14-year old Anna Auld in 24:09. In the men’s division, 56-year-old Tom Debevec of New Mexico placed first in followed by 51-year-old Alan Svensen in 23:36 and 47-year-old Andrew Farrell of North Carolina in 23:52. In the Special Olympics division, Gregg Dedic led the way in the men’s individual division, while Gianni Mercado and Fernando Nunez took 2nd and 3rd place. Gina Grant placed 1st in the women’s individual division. Peter Vila, Orlando Caro and Andy Miyares were the top 3 men’s unified finishers, while Julie Finlon took 1st place in the women’s unified division.

The racers and the organizing team were also supported by sponsors of Swim Fort Lauderdale Beach and the South Florida Swim Series, despite the windy, chilly conditions. In addition to main sponsor and organizer SwimGym, Born to Swim was on hand with swim products for purchase, a swim mesh bag given to racers, as well as prizes for participants in each age category from 1st through 3rd. BodyArmor offered refreshing natural sports drinks, while Power Crunch provided nutrition with free samples of protein bars. And Harmless Harvest also sponsored the event with its unique organic coconut water.

See you at the finish line!

See you at the finish line!

What’s next in the South Florida Swim Series? Mark your calendars for Swim Miami on Sunday, May 6th! Swim Miami provides the original calm water experience at the historic Miami Marine Stadium, which is in the process of being renovated since its destruction by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. With 800m, 1-mile, 5K and 10K events to choose from, this is an event that provides swimmers of all levels the opportunity to participate in an open water event. And let’s not forget the K-9 Krawl! It’s all part of the fun at the South Florida Swim Series. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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