Athletes load up on sunscreen and stock liquids in the support kayaks.

The Florida Keys Community College’s Swim Around Key West was started in 1996 and every successive year sees the race grow with contestants from the Keys and around the world.

“Our winner two years ago, Cameron McKnight, was a Canadian collegiate swimmer. There are a group of seven people coming from Costa Rica and they are really excited to see Key West,” said FKCC Aquatics Program Director Lori Bosco. “We get two teams from Palm Beach County that come down — St. Andrews and Wellington swim teams. They make it a whole event with a swim meet the next day.”

The race starts on Saturday, June 14 at 7:30 a.m. It is a World Open Water Swimming Association [WOWSA] event and swimmers, or teams of swimmers, will put their swimming abilities to the test with the 12.5-mile swim around Key West. But there are a variety of challenges for all skill levels. Participants can also sign up for the one-mile or two-mile swim at 9 a.m. on the event day. In fact, the winner of last year’s swim around Key West has designed her own custom race.

“Last year’s winner from the Northeast, Katie Scott, is going to do the swim two consecutive times totaling 25 miles,” said Bosco. “Aside from how challenging it already is, Scott has to finish it in eight hours because that is how long we are allowed to keep the course open.”

Since the event is WOWSA sanctioned, there are strict safety regulations. Every team or swimmer needs a support kayak to ensure the swimmer is safe. There are also environmental precautions because the swim takes place in a marine sanctuary. Currently there are 212 people signed up to race, which is the biggest field in 18 years. To register or find more out about the event visit

Funds raised from the event support the Key West High School swim team, Bone Island swim team and help maintain the pool at Florida Keys Community College.pool at Florida Keys Community College.

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