The Swim

Swim Day: You must check in at Higgs Beach at 5:15 a.m. on June 3rd. All swimmers must be in the water and ready for the 6am start at the sound of the blow horn. Once you check in, you must have your body marked with your solo or team number. This is the time to organize your kayak with your provisions, put on your sunscreen and work out last minute strategy with your kayaker. Time will pass quickly, so get out to the beach early avoiding rushing.

Start Time: Our swim will start earlier this year than in 2022. The reason for the date and time change from year to year is so that we can find the best tidal currents for our swimmers. The sun is the hottest from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A wet swimmer cannot re-apply sunscreen, so make sure you apply a thick coat of sunscreen or zinc oxide before you enter the water. We cannot emphasize sun protection enough!

Sun Protection: This is a warm water swim. Since the swim is June 3 this year, water temperatures will likely be between 82 and 86 degrees. Swimmers coming from the north will have not been exposed to the sun since the previous summer. Since we do not allow any special “skins” to protect the skin of the swimmers, we recommend zinc oxide to cover the body of the swimmer. Conventional sun screens are not very helpful as they wash off in a couple of hours. Zinc oxide ointment can be purchased from most supermarkets and pharmacies. You will need to look in the Baby Care section of the store. The most enduring zinc oxide ointment is Desitin Maximum Strength (40% zinc oxide). See Bill’s review of Desitin Max here. You can find Desitin Max in one-pound jars, which is the most economical purchase. Another 40% zinc product is called Butt Paste. It also can be found in the Baby Care section of many stores. It does not come in a pound jar, but only in 2- and 4-ounce tubes. It is more expensive, but smells better because it does not contain fish oil. Zinc products containing less than 40% zinc will not provide full protection from the sun. Zinc oxide is a pain to remove from your skin. Try vegetable oil and know that the zinc will stain your swimsuit.

The Race Organizer (and fellow swimmer) has found great benefit from a product called SolRx sunblock. This product is easier to apply than maximum strength zinc oxide and washes off with soap and water. It applies clear and seems to protect the skin from burn for a full 8 hours. (You can learn more at or read Bill’s review of SolRx Sunscreen here.) He uses the Clear Zinc Sunscreen (reef-friendly) SPF 50. This product is oxybenzone free.

Hydration: Another important consideration is hydration. Salt water and the hot tropical sun mean that hydration is essential to a successful swim. We suggest that all swimmers drink liquid every 20 to 30 minutes while in the water.

Time Limit: There is an 9-hour time limit. Any swimmers still in the water will be picked up and escorted by boat to the start/finish line. The finisher medals are only awarded to solo swimmers and relay teams who complete the full course within 8 hours.

Benefits of the Tides: There are a few areas where the swimmers will benefit from the tide. When they enter the Key West Harbor, they will be getting a tide ride all the way to Fleming Key Bridge, under the bridge and all the way up to Sigsbee Park Marina on Dredgers Key. This push will vary depending on their speed and when they enter these areas.  When the swimmers swim around the corner of Dredgers Key they then will continue swimming towards Cow Key Channel.  Mile 6 at Dredgers Key is where the tide changes and becomes an outward tide running towards Cow Key Channel and through the channel all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. At Mile 6 lead swimmers may have a mild current against them. But by Mile 7 they should be picking up the outgoing tide towards Cow Key Channel once again to get a tide ride 1-1/2 miles to the Atlantic Ocean, where they will continue to swim the last 4miles to the finish at Higgs Beach.

If the water is calm, you will see much sea life, such as tarpon, rays, colorful tropical fish, conch shells on the bottom, perhaps a sea turtle, etc. You may see a nurse shark; they are docile. In the history of our event no one has ever been attacked by a shark. We have Portuguese Men of War but only in December through February. I have never seen one after early March.

Since you are swimming in a circle, it is never boring. You will never see the same thing twice. Also, if the conditions are challenging on one side, keep in mind that after you turn the next bend conditions will change. The headwind will eventually become a tailwind and vice versa.

Post Swim on the Beach: We will have drinks and refreshments on the beach as the swimmers begin to arrive. If you prefer different post-race recovery food or drink, please bring it with you.