The Swim

Swim Day: All swimmers with their kayakers must check in at Higgs Beach at 5:30 a.m. on June 22nd before you enter the water. All swimmers must be in the water and ready for the start at the sound of the blow horn. One start for all swimmers. 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. Kayakers must stay with their swimmer at all times. Time will pass quickly, so get out to the beach early to avoid rushing.

Start Time: The swim starts at 7:45 a.m. 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 in June 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. The most enduring zinc oxide sunscreen is SolRX.

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 Recommended is 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 8-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 Man 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.