Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Veteran swimmer set for 24-mile open-water challenge

The wind blew 20 miles per hour out of the north. Waves, 4 to 6 feet high, broke over the bow of the flats skiff, nearly filling the boat with water.

It was not a good day to be on Tampa Bay.

"I was having a great time, but the boat was about to sink," recalled 67-year-old Carl Selles. "So I had to stop."

So much for rules, the swimmer thought. If only he wasn't required to have a support boat escort him on last year's 24-mile swim from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the finish line at Ben T. Davis Beach.

"I wanted to keep going," explained the masters' swimmer. "But they have to think about safety."

The annual Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, now in its 17th year, is one of the most challenging open-water events in the world. It started in April 1998 when local waterman Ron Collins decided to try something a little different to celebrate Earth Day.

Collins called some friends to witness the spectacle, put a few beers on ice at the finish line, and hit the water — covering the 24-mile course in 9 hours and 52 minutes, the last 100 yards or so butterfly.

Word spread quickly and Collins started receiving inquiries from other open-water enthusiasts hoping to duplicate his epic swim. So he started a website — distancematters.com — and a race was born.

On Saturday, Selles and more than a dozen other extreme athletes will take to the water again. Over the years, competitors from across the United States and Great Britain, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Canada and the Cayman Islands have turned out hoping Florida's unpredictable spring weather won't send them home disappointed.

"The thing about this swim is you really never know what to expect," Selles said. "You just have to show up race day and hope for the best."

Despite his age (he will set the record as the event's oldest swimmer this year), Selles, a former college swimmer, should be one of the faster contestants. "I'm all about health and nutrition," he said. "I don't really do anything but swim and paddle."

The former history teacher spends his summers in Colorado but winters in St. Petersburg. "I came down here 12 years ago after I retired," he said. "I fell in love with North Shore Pool and had to stay."

Selles, who was forced to stop after 8 miles last year, said he knows he can go the full distance. Last year, after failing to complete the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, Selles went on to swim a 27-mile stretch of North Dakota's Red River in 7 hours, 42 minutes.

Most competitors in Saturday's swim, which begins at 7 a.m., should finish in 10 to 14 hours. But seasoned veteran Samantha Simon should swim much faster. She did her first Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in 2008 when she was just 18 years old.

Not only did the Wisconsin resident complete that challenge in 8 hours, 59 minutes, she went on to swim the English Channel (13 hours, 11 minutes), around New York City in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (8 hours, 10 minutes) and across the Catalina Channel (9 hours, 22 minutes) at age 20 to become the youngest person to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.

Selles, meanwhile, is leaving nothing to chance the second time around. "This year," he said, "I'm bringing a bigger boat."

Tampa Bay Marathon swim records

Overall and men's record:

7:41, Chris Derks, 2002

Women's record: 7:51, Penny Palfrey, 2008

Longest time in the water:

15:10, Flavia Zappa, 2011

First swimmer: Ron Collins, 1998 (9:52)

First female swimmer:

Gail Rice, 1998 (8:34)

Fastest three-person relay:

7:53, Team Hammerhead, 2006

Fastest six-person relay:

7:39, The Sharks, 2006

Oldest swimmer:

66, Dr. Konrad Euler (13:09)

This year's solo swimmers

Samantha Simon, 24, Janesville, Wis.

Lisa Hertz, 28, Winter Haven

Thomas Bell, 45, Wyomissing, Pa.

Kevin Joubert, 41, Towson, Md.

Gabriel Viti, 50, Highland Park, Ill.

Thomas Hintz, 48, Marshall, Ill.

Willy Blumentals, 41, Secaucus, N.J.

Bridgette Hobart, 51, Lake Hopatcong, N.J.

Carl Selles, 67, Aurora, Colo.

Ann von Spiegelfeld, 52, Tampa

Dan Fritz, 50, Chicago

Arnie Bellini, 54, Tampa

Bart Cobb, 59, Tampa

Genevieve Mackwood, 54, Ottawa, Ontario

Brian Lanahan, 38, Charleston, S.C.

Steve Faulkner, 52, Barrie, Ontario

Veteran swimmer set for 24-mile open-water challenge 04/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 9:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'

    Blogs

    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.