Monday, April 23, 2018
Outdoors

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."

 
Comments

Captainís Corner: Time nears for snook, tarpon out at the beaches

With summerlike air temperatures coming in the next couple of weeks, snook will be moving out to the beaches and tarpon will start cruising there. Itís my favorite time of year to fish. With snook on the beaches and passes, you would think their biol...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Variables are all that is constant when it comes to art of fishing

The unique variables and ever-changing conditions of fishing are what set it apart from most other sports. Basketball goals donít move, baseball diamonds are basically the same and tennis courts never change. Fishing, on the other hand, is constantly...
Published: 04/21/18

Captainís Corner: King mackerel the hot topic as gulf waters warm

King mackerel is always the hot topic this time of year, with tournaments every weekend for two months. Some believe that massive schools in the gulf migrate from their fall haunts in south Florida and the Keys to the north, with the larger females (...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Captainís Corner: Trout moving toward the beaches

Captainís Corner: Trout moving toward the beaches

After significant winds from a front last week, things are calming down and fish are turning on again. Bait has gotten predictable and easier to chum on the flats after moving to deeper water during the front. Iíve been targeting trout at first light...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/19/18

Captainís Corner: Rush of warmer water in gulf heats up fishing on offshore reefs, wrecks

The rush of warmer water on our offshore reefs and wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico has brought with it a cadre of pelagic fish. Divers and anglers have enjoyed the influx of cobia, kingfish and more. The benthic (bottom) fish are splurging on the balls ...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Captainís Corner: Spring bite is solid despite wacky weather

Bipolar weather continues to confuse both fish and anglers. Fortunately the water temperature has gotten high enough that the effects donít last long and the spring bite continues to be solid. Snook are still the hot bite in many areas around the bay...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Captainís Corner: Kingfish, sharks provide aerial displays

Fishing was good this past Saturday, ahead of the cold front. We fished close to shore about 2 miles. Our approach was simple. We anchored the boat, fished with live baits and chummed heavily. Kingfish action was nonstop for the entire morning. We ca...
Published: 04/16/18

Captainís Corner: Trolling or anchoring up, kingfish bite is hot

Are you looking for line-screaming action? Head offshore. The kingfish bite has been good, though high winds may require a wait for the water to clear. The best numbers have been about 5 miles out on the hard bottom. Trolling for kingfish works well;...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/15/18

Captainís Corner: Spring run is the most wonderful time of the year

The full spring run of all species in our area is in full swing. Whatever species you would like to target, inshore or offshore, is as good as it gets this time of year. Redfish schools have shown up in the flats around Pinellas Point, but they are i...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Captainís Corner: Spanish mackerel, kingfish showing up in big numbers

They are here! Spanish mackerel and kingfish have shown up in the numbers expected of them at this time of year. All we have to hope for is weather that will allow us to get offshore. In most years the hot spots have been the artificial reefs, shipwr...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/12/18