Taking the plunge: Swimmers celebrate St. Johns with open water events

Taking the plunge: Swimmers celebrate St. Johns with open water events

Photo by Roger Linville; Metropolitan Rebel Swim from Metropolitan Park Marina to Riverside Arts Market on Oct. 13 — Captain Mike Lefevre, Vedad Begic, Maria Andreu, Jim Alabiso, Luis Etchenique, Ian Cherry and Candice DavisPhoto by Danny Murphy; Silken McClain, Maria Andreu, Patrick Snyder, Candice Davis, Jim Alabiso, Mitch Ritchie, Alicia Smith and Roger Linville of St. Johns Riverkeeper at the Jacksonville Landing under the Main Street Bridge after the Downtown Rebel Swim on Sep. 8.

What better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act of 1972 by getting in the St. Johns River.  CWA aimed to eliminate and prohibit toxic discharges—point source pollution—and restore water quality. Congress strengthened the Act 15 years later by adding Section 319 to control nonpoint source pollution: the runoff from ranches, communities, and boatyards, with pesticides, other toxic chemicals, and nutrients that create algae blooms.

                Since 1999, St. Johns Riverkeeper, its staff and volunteers have invested immeasurable time and energy in keeping the river and its issues on the collective mind of northeast Florida and in its media. At JumpingFish, we couldn’t do what we do without them.

                I believe we must move forward and leverage this progress by using the St. Johns in ways we may not have decades ago. True, it’s hard to shake a bad rap, but that’s exactly what we have been doing for the past couple years.

                Our first river swims began in 2011 and culminated in the four-mile Swim Across the St. Johns, from Fleming Island to County Dock in Mandarin. JumpingFish stretched further this June as Diego De los Rios, Eric De Petris, and I swam 12 miles from County Dock to the Riverside Arts Market under the Fuller Warren Bridge, accompanied by an indispensible crew aboard kayaks, motor boats, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper flagship vessel, the Kingfisher.

                We’ve been pushing even further north since then, immersing ourselves in downtown Jacksonville as few others have done. JumpingFish began the Downtown venue in June with 1.1-mile swims from the Fuller Warren to the Jacksonville Landing, dubbed the Downtown Rebel Mile. Since then teams of extraordinary open water athletes have swum the venue. We have extended our route to the Metropolitan Park Marina area. In October Riverside resident Maria Andreu and I completed the first “180” from the Fuller Warren to the Marina and back, almost 4.5 miles. In November we are exploring a swim to Exchange Island underneath the Mathews Bridge.

                As we near our 40th swim and paddle event, JumpingFish considers new ways to eradicate decades’ worth stigma. Open water athletes, kayakers, stand up paddle boarders, triathletes; we have big things coming in 2013.

                A word of caution! The currents in the downtown area are strong and can be dangerous to do an uninformed swim. JumpingFish has spent a significant amount of time studying the currents. All our activities are carefully timed and planned. For more information write [email protected]net or go to http://jumpingfish.net/sasj/sasj-gps-tracks/ where some of our data can be found.

By Jim Alabiso
Director, Jumping Fish

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