Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dozens brave chilly Tampa Bay waters to help wounded, fallen Navy SEALs and families

There are lots of ways to ring in the new year. One way is to pull on a wet suit and swim across Tampa Bay.

That's what 67 hardy souls did early Sunday morning, braving the chilly, choppy waters before most of us had even finished breakfast.

They made the 3-mile swim to raise money for wounded and fallen Navy SEALs and their families.

"I've had people ask me, 'Why not do it later in the day? Why not do it in the summer?' But it's meant to be a challenge," said organizer Rory O'Connor.

This was the second annual Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. The first one, held a year ago, was kind of a "pirate event" — no permit, no insurance. Swimmers worried that someone would call the cops, or the Coast Guard.

But they ended up raising $30,000 for Lt. Dan Cnossen, a Navy SEAL who lost his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan.

This year's swim was more official, with a Coast Guard escort. They hoped to raise $50,000 in pledges for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation. The charity provides services for wounded SEALs and college educations for the children of fallen SEALs.

"It's a nice, easy swim on a balmy day," joked Pat Marzulli, 62, of Indian Rocks Beach as he pulled on his swimming cap. "It's a tough day, but we remember why we're out here. Our pain is short-term; their pain is long-term."

The water temperature hovered in the mid-50s and a cold drizzle fell from a gray sky as men and women in wet suits gathered on Gandy Beach. With a war chant of "Hoo-yah!" they set off across the bay to Tampa's Picnic Island.

Kayakers watched over them for the one- to two-hour swim. The toughest part comes halfway across, when the bay's shipping channel brings a river of colder water from the deep sea.

"It wasn't so bad at first. But in the middle of the channel, the temperature dropped. You just keep pushing on," said Ricardo Valdivia, a competitive swimmer from Miami who finished the fastest, in an hour and three minutes.

"You're fighting the wind," said swimmer Ray Becker of Sarasota. "The waves coming at you, they really chop up your stroke."

A few swimmers had to be fished out of the drink, but the vast majority finished.

"It's one of the hardest things I've done in my life," said Jay Gallagher, a Valrico computer programmer and triathlete. "I can't wait for next year."

As exhausted, red-faced swimmers came ashore, they were offered beer and cookies and commemorative sweatshirts. On the back of the sweatshirts was the race's motto: Never leave a man behind.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

>> on the web

Frogman Swim

For more information, visit tampabayfrogman.com.

Dozens brave chilly Tampa Bay waters to help wounded, fallen Navy SEALs and families 01/02/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 2, 2011 10:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. Editorial: Trump assaults rule of law by attacking attorney general

    Editorials

    Jeff Sessions was a terrible choice for attorney general, and the policies he has pursued in his brief tenure — cracking down on immigrants, bullying sheriffs, prosecuting low-level offenders to the max — are counterproductive. But the stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Sessions this …

    The stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Attorney General Jess Sessions this week assault the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law.
  3. Iowa group sues United over death of giant rabbit, Simon

    Nation

    DES MOINES, Iowa — A group of Iowa businessmen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against United Airlines over the death of Simon, a giant rabbit whose lifeless body was discovered in a kennel after a flight from London to Chicago.

    In this May 8, 2017 file photo, attorney Guy Cook speaks a news conference while looking at a photo of Simon, a giant rabbit that died after flying from the United Kingdom to Chicago, in Des Moines, Iowa. A group of Iowa businessmen have filed a lawsuit against United Airlines over the death of Simon. The businessmen filed the lawsuit Wednesday, July 26, 2017, more than three months after airline workers found the continental rabbit named Simon dead. [AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]
  4. Elderly Brooksville woman dies in Wednesday crash

    Accidents

    BROOKSVILLE — An 87-year-old woman died following a Wednesday morning car crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  5. As Dow hits new high, Raymond James Financial reports record financial gains

    Banking

    On the same day that the Dow closed at new highs, investment firm Raymond James Financial reported record revenues and earnings for its fiscal third quarter that ended June 30.

    Raymond James Financial CEO Paul Reilly unveiled record quarterly revenues and earnings for the St. Petersburg-based investment firm. [Courtesy of Raymond James Financial]