Key West is a special place.
Even an odd place. It is a Caribbean Island, but it’s part of the US. And even though it is an island, you can actually drive there. (okay for the geographical purists, it is in the Gulf of Mexico, but it definitely feels like the Caribbean!). It has played host to Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett, and a whole lot of people seeking the fun and sun that Jimmy Buffett made famous in “Margaritaville”. It has an incredible night life, great fishing… and it has the oldest continuous sporting event in Monroe County, Florida… the Swim Around Key West!
The race was founded in 1977 by Anna Fugina (who still swims in the event). The current race director and local legend, Bill Welzien, has swum around Key West a record 87 times… and counting! He is shooting for 100 times by then of 2017! It really is an amazing place, full of colourful characters!
Since 1977, the Swim Around Key West has had swimmers from countries all over the United States and around the world come and swim it. Many swim it as a relay, many swim it as a huge challenge and a few really fast swimmers have put up some very fast times too! In fact, there is a standing reward of $1000 for anyone who can beat the current record of 3:31:28 set by Gabe Lindsey in 1999.
Each swimmer has their own kayak escort, capped at 110 solo swimmers, and the 2 and 3 swimmer relays have their own boat, capped at 15 & 25 teams. The water itself is generally in the mid 80-degree zone and the tidal prediction charts are consulted so that the swimmers never swim against the tidal current, but rather are assisted by it in areas. The waters are beautiful and typically calm, which is great for viewing all kinds of interesting sea life. Since the swimmers all the way around the Island of Key West, you will never see the same thing twice!
Fittingly, in this very artsy town, each year local artist Abigail White designs the unique artwork for the T-shirt front as a great souvenir of your accomplishment. Solo finishers also get medals made of sterling silver and can be worn as jewellery. There are finisher medals for all participants and category awards made locally using unique sea shells.
One point to note, is that there are 2 “Swim Around Key West” races. The “FKCC Swim Around Key West” (also a GSS race) and the “Swim Around Key West”, which usually take place a couple of weeks apart in June. So if you are coming down with some buddies, make sure you all pick the same one! The nice thing about having the two races is that if the timing doesn’t work for you, there is always the other one!
The long and short of the Swim Around Key West is that it is a spectacular swim and an amazing event in a fun and quirky bit of paradise! A definite bucket list swim!