New Course Record Set and Almost $25K Raised 8th Annual Power Swim

About 200 swimmers hit the water at Maho Bay to start the Friends of V.I. National Park’s 8th Annual Beach-to-Beach Power Swim.

Sixteen-year-old Bryson Mays of St. Croix won last year’s Friends of the V.I. National Park Beach to Beach Power Swim, but that wasn’t good enough for him.

Mays returned to this year’s swim on Sunday morning, May 29, where he not only won again, but he also broke the course record, previously set by Kieran Locke, also of St. Croix.

Mays swam the long course, from Maho Bay to Hawksnest beach, in just 1:10:34, more than a minute faster than the previous record of 1:11:39.

“To think about him swimming from Maho to Hawksnest that quickly is pretty awesome,” said Friends president Joe Kessler.

In addition to seeing the course record broken, the swim also attracted 204 registered swimmers, and the event raised $25,000 for the V.I. National Park’s Learn to Swim program. This year’s Race for a Reason fundraising challenge, which encouraged swimmers to raise additional funds, brought in even more money.

Sixteen-year-old Bryson Mays of St. Croix poses with Friends of the V.I. National Park President Joe Kessler after his winning and record-breaking finish.

Competitors came from as far away as Hawaii, Spain and Trinidad, and several swimmers traveled from the states as well.

One notable competitor was Jamie Patrick, an ultraswimmer who recently swam across Lake Tahoe and back, and plans to swim 240 miles nonstop in the Sacramento River this August.

Patrick hosted an open water swim clinic the day before the Power Swim and donated the clinic’s proceeds to the Friends.

“It was very cool having him there,” said Kessler. “He brought some stuff from his sponsors that we gave to the winners, including the best prize of all, a waterproof MP3 player.”

Everyone from the incredibly experienced Patrick down to the youngest swimmers got out of the water safely thanks to numerous volunteers manning 25 kayaks, five safety boats, the St. John Rescue boat and National Park Service patrol boats, which kept an eye on competitors throughout the course.

Calm seas and light following winds ensured prime conditions for this year’s swimmers, who competed in the short course, from Maho to Cinnamon at one mile; the intermediate course, from Maho to Trunk, at two-and-a-quarter miles; and the long course, from Maho to Hawksnest, at three-and-a-half miles. Categories included assisted, where mask, fins and snorkel were allowed; and unassisted, where swimmers relied on a pair of goggles and their own horsepower to complete the race.

Once the competitors finished the swim and had a chance to catch their breath, they converged at Oppenheimer Beach, where burgers and beer were enjoyed by all, and awards were doled out to the day’s top competitors.

“The party was good fun,” said Kessler. “People hung out and had a good time, and it was a nice, relaxing atmosphere.”

This year’s Beach to Beach Power Swim went off without a hitch thanks in no small part to the numerous volunteers who help make it all possible.

“We really appreciate all the support we got from the community, from the businesses here on St. John and St. Thomas to the folks who donated goods and services or helped out in one way or another,” said Kessler. “It really took the community to make this event a success, so they really need recognition.”

And swimmers, mark your calendars. The ninth annual Beach to Beach Power Swim is scheduled for Sunday, May 27, 2012.