Who knew that when I moved to St. Croix I would become an athlete? Okay, so I use the term ‘athlete’ loosely, but I participated in the 19th annual St. Croix Coral Reef Swim. This annual event attracts not only world class athletes, but open water swimmers of all ages and levels from all over since it includes a one-mile, a two-mile and a five-mile swim race. The one-mile and the two-mile races follow the shoreline of St. Croix’s East End, while the five-mile race begins at Buck Island before meeting up with the two-mile course along the shoreline. All three races take swimmers through the turquoise Caribbean waters above colorful coral reefs, ending at The Buccaneer’s palm-lined Mermaid Beach.
The week leading up to the 19th Coral Reef Swim saw torrential rain and flash flooding all across St. Croix, which made me very nervous as a new swimmer. However, the sky cleared up the day before the race and stayed mostly clear and beautiful all the way through the end of the event on Sunday…giving just enough time for some of the runoff to settle so visibility wasn’t too bad! The starts were staggered, so as us one-mile swimmers were lining up on the beach for our start, we could already see some of the two and five-mile racers swimming off in the distance. As I slowly made my way along the swim course, fighting against a little current and a few waves, I adopted Dori’s motto from Disney’s ‘Finding Nemo’ as my mantra: ‘Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…’
At the finish line, there was festive steel drum music, refreshments and more waiting to greet us on Mermaid Beach! However, in my opinion, the best part of all was the camaraderie and encouragement from the support staff all along the swim course, as well as the spectators and fellow swimmers cheering from the shoreline. To give you an idea of the level of some of the swimmers competing, the quickest time in the five-mile race from Buck Island to Mermaid Beach was under two hours! My personal goal was just to finish the one-mile swim, which I did in an hour plus. Having struggled to finish a 1/4 mile ocean swim the week before, I was thrilled just to complete the race alongside my inspiring and supportive swim buddy, Leslie.
If you are thinking about setting an athletic goal for yourself, consider becoming an open water swimmer and participating in the next St. Croix Coral Reef Swim Race! (If I can do it, anyone can.) You can practice your open water swimming with a buddy (like I did), or you can take swim lessons with the Dolphins to get more comfortable and build up your stamina. You can also join the Fin Folk, a local swimming club, to work on your open water skills. 2015 will mark the 20th Anniversary of the Coral Reef Swim, so that will be an especially great year to participate in the ‘race’. The Coral Reef Swim allows you to enjoy the beauty that the Caribbean Sea has to offer, all while challenging yourself physically. As an added bonus, you get to meet new people who will support and encourage you all the way! Swim on, St. Croix!
-Jennie Ogden, Editor