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The 18th Annual Beach to Beach Power Swim Brings Veterans Back to St. John

The 18th Annual Beach to Beach Power Swim Brings Veterans Back to St. John

Good Morning, Good Morning!  This weekend is one of my absolute favorite community events on St. John.  The Beach to Beach Power Swim, hosted by Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, brings hundreds of swimmers to the beautiful waters of VINP every year for a race in the incredible waters along St. John’s North Shore Beaches.  The proceeds from the volunteer supported race benefits many marine programs sponsored by Friends VINP and the Community Learn to  Swim Program.

Each year in May, hundreds of residents and visitors gather at the starting gate at Maho Bay in support and celebration of these amazing programs dedicated to keeping the surrounding waters of St. John beautiful and teaching community members and children how to love safely being in the water.  And, each year, Wounded Warriors join these supporters on the beach to participate in the multi level race with finish lines at Cinnamon, Trunk and Hawksnest.

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This weekend, May 30, the 18th Beach to Beach Power Swim hits the starting line on the beach at Maho Bay with over 250 swimmers set to participate.  Among these swimmers will be three members of an organization called Team River Runner, an organization dedicated to providing “veterans and their families an opportunity to find health, healing, community purpose and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports.”

For many years on St. John, the Robert Gallagher Memorial Chaotic Kayak Race, gave wounded veterans and their families an opportunity to visit this beautiful island as participants in a Mad Hatter Tea Party kayak engagement that has been a true “St. John style” event in the past.  The event brought community businesses and organizations together in large numbers for a crazy race in support of these American Heroes.

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The 2019 Chaotic Kayak Race took place on Cruz Bay Beach

When the public facilities at Oppenheimer Beach were damaged during Irma, the race was forced to find a new home in Cruz Bay in 2018 & 2019.  Last year, both the Beach to Beach Power Swim and the Chaotic Kayak Race, like everything else, were affected by the worldwide pandemic.  Team River Runner rescheduled Chaotic Kayak for 2021, while Friends VINP got a bit creative with their execution of the normally annual in-person event.

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Team River Runner representing at the Beach to Beach Power Swim in 2015

“Last year we were forced to get creative and host a virtual Beach To World swim which was incredibly successful,” says Tonia Lovejoy, Acting Director, Friends of Virgin Islands National Park. “As fabulous as that was in terms of community engagement and fundraising, we are incredibly happy to have everyone back in the water this year enjoying the azure ocean and white sand beaches that make our park so special.”

And the veterans are very happy to be back to participate in the event that is “recognized as one of the most beautiful open water swim meets in the world.”  This year, three veterans, Shelton Gore, Deitle II Johno and Maximo Bryans are en route to St. John to swim the course on the North Shore.

“Beach to Beach is a great event” said Shelton Gore of Team River Runner.  “We are looking forward to it!”

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Beach to Beach Power Swimmers Andre and Andrea Cilliers and Shelton Gore pictured here in 2019.

Team River Runner has annually active participants in both of these events and in the 8 Tuff Miles Race.  In 2018, following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, they hosted their own fundraiser in order to give back to St. John and support recovery efforts.  The heroes and warriors that frequent the island annually for these events are such an inspiration and we are incredibly blessed to call them a part of the Love City community!  I would like to personally welcome Shelton and his comrades back to St. John this weekend and wish them luck in their Sunday swim!

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Spectators and volunteers cheer on the swimmers from the beach (Photo: Lisa Etre- 2018)

The Beach to the Beach Power Swim includes the following courses for swimmers of all levels of advancement:

  • Cinnamon Short Course for solo swimmers only from Maho Beach to Cinnamon Beach (1 mile)
  • Trunk Intermediate Course for solo swimmers only from Maho Beach to Trunk Beach (2.25 miles)
  • Hawksnest Long Course for solo swimmers from Maho Beach to Hawksnest Beach (3.5 miles)
  • Relay Long Course for 3-person relay teams from Maho Beach to Hawksnest Beach (3.5 miles). The relay team transition points are located at
    Cinnamon Beach and Trunk Beach.
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Course Map

Swimmers can opt for an assisted race with snorkels, fins, and/or exposure suits or brave the waters unassisted without gear (goggles and earplugs are ok!).  Dozens of volunteers on paddle boards and kayaks, in dinghies and at the start and finish line(s) show up for this amazing event each year to ensure the safety of the swimmers and for a (this year, socially distanced) celebration at the course end at Hawksnest.

“Along with our volunteers, partners, and sponsors we are so grateful to be able to offer this great event to all in 2021!” said Tonia.  “We have had the hurricane edition, and a virtual power swim, now this is the socially distanced power swim. Hopefully next year we will be able to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our swimmers with a big after-party event!”

You truly cannot keep the members of this community from getting things done.  Island ingenuity and resiliency is a force to be reckoned with 🙂

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Each course will be its own mini-event in keeping with COVID safety protocols with meals to-go provided by Little Olive and beverages from St. John Brewers. Top finishers will be given their awards on the beach and final results will be published in the week after the event

Last year, the donations produced from the successful virtual swim funded the Friends’ Learn to Swim program which kicks off tomorrow Saturday, May 29 at Oppenheimer Beach at 10AM.  The program’s goal is to to continue and expand the VI National Park’s offering of free swim lessons during the summer months by training local youth to be Red Cross certified Water Safety Instructors.  For more information about the Learn to Swim Program, please visit the website.

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If you are currently on island, I would HIGHLY recommend making sure you get out to support this annual Memorial Day Weekend Community event!  Witnessing the comradarie, enthusiasm and community engagement at these events allows you to watch the true spirit of Love City in action.  If you are not on island and wish to support the swimmers and the cause behind the race,  go to the Friends’ website where you can sponsor a swimmer or donate directly in support of their programs.  Oh, and everyone who DONATES $65 or more gets a FREE power swim jersey!

If you are on island and are heading to the North Shore Beaches on Sunday, here are a few pointers to assist Friends’ VINP with a smooth event:

PARKING

If you plan to head to Maho, Cinnamon, Trunk or Hawksnest this Sunday, PLEASE consider taking a cab.  There are free shuttles from town for participants and volunteers but parking is and has been an issue at ALL of the North Shore Beaches on the regular and with an event of this size, please defer to supporting your favorite taxi driver and cut down on the parking issues for this weekend.

ON THE BEACH

If your plan is to enjoy Sunday Funday on the beach but you don’t wish to participate in the festivities, please steer clear of the well marked finish lines at Cinnamon, Trunk and Hawksnest.  The race registration is from 7-7:30AM at Maho and the swimmers take to the water at 8AM.  To give you an idea of time frame for finish, there is a three hour limit on time for the race.  So, Hawksnest will likely be a bit crazy until at least noon that day.  Maho should be relatively cleared out by 10 or 11.  Please, please, please, if you are not on the beach to support the race, be cognizant of the event going on and help the volunteers and Friends VINP execute a seamless socially distanced event 🙂

For full information on the race, please visit the official site…And have a BEAUTIFUL Memorial Day Weekend!

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