More than 150 swimmers showed both their love for the ocean and desire to do good for the Montauk community by participating in the fifth annual Montauk Ocean Swim Challenge on Saturday.
Swimmers chose from a two-mile, one-mile and half-mile course—the two-mile event took off first, starting at Kirk Park Beach, followed by the mile swim, which began east of the Sloppy Tuna after the two-milers passed. The half-mile swim began at the cliffs at Ditch Plains after all the other swimmers had moved on. The races all ended at Ditch Plains.
The swim challenge raises money for the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation, which will is working to fund a new aquatics center, among other features, at the community center. The event is facilitated by the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad (EHVORS).
Bob Miller, a member of EHVORS and a board member of the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation, said Monday that he wasn’t sure yet how much money the event had raised. He pointed out that last year’s swim challenge brought in $10,000, and there were 20 more swimmers participating this year than last year.
He noted that the swim challenge is valuable not only for the money it brings in, but also because it raises general awareness of what the community center is all about and the services it is trying to provide.
“The future plan, in my mind, is to make it a sports complex that people from all over will want to go to,” he said.
Miller added that when the aquatics center is built, it will give all children from the community a chance to learn how to swim. Right now, he explained, parents who do not have the means to pay for private swim lessons are often left in the dark. An aquatics center would enable schools to bring children to the pool for swim lessons as part of a physical education program.
The importance—and the joy—of knowing how to swim were certainly on display Saturday, as children and adults of all ages and abilities jumped in the ocean. Miller described the conditions as “fair,” saying that while both the tide and the sweep were behind the swimmers, and thus aided them in getting to the finish line, there was still a significant swell which made getting in and out of the water a challenge.
Miller said he was impressed that people “faced their fears” in negotiating the surf, noting that he was also impressed that a significant number of people chose the longer distances, pointing out that 57 people completed the two-mile swim and 56 signed up for the mile course.
“The fact that they swam that far is so amazing,” he said.
Rod McClave of New York City won the two-mile swim in 40:20. McClave is a talented open water swimmer and triathlete, and won the Swim Across America Hamptons Open Water Swim earlier in July. After finishing the race, he got back in the water and completed the half-mile swim with his niece, Ada Merriman.
Andrew Winthrop, an East Hampton High School student who was a member of the varsity swim team in the winter, won the mile event in 16:07. And Elizabeth Dix won the half-mile swim in 13:19, followed by East Hampton High School student Amanda Calabrese (13:29) and her father, T.J. Calabrese (13:50).