A Swim for Alligator Lighthouse participant swims to the lighthouse. IAN WILSON/Keys Weekly

A world-renowned race from the Islamorada shores to an iconic lighthouse won’t go on as originally planned this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The eight-mile Swim for Alligator Lighthouse was set to take place in less than a month, Sept. 12, at Amara Cay, with hundreds of swimmers around the world participating. Guidelines from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, limit gatherings to no more than 50 individuals; that was the deciding factor for the village to decline to issue a permit. As a result, the committee that puts on the annual swim announced its cancellation on Aug. 17.

“It crushes me,” said Larry “Lighthouse” Herlth, the anchor behind the annual swim that began in 2013. “Swimmers all over the world were looking forward to it.” 

Herlth said safety is paramount for the annual swim out to Alligator that usually sees roughly 1,000 people, including 400 swimmers who sign up and hundreds of kayakers who support their swimmer’s journey out to the lighthouse. Rescheduling the race to a future date would have proved difficult, and Herlth said the race will resume Sept. 11, 2021. 

“The way things are with bookings, it would be really hard to reschedule it with hotels and everything else,” he said. “It’s just better to bump it for next year.”

Swimmers encounter some stunning scenes as they make their way out to the lighthouse during the swim. With sights of marine life also comes a sting or two from jellyfish. Year after year, participants return to conquer Alligator. And they’ll have an extra year to prepare for the race that benefits the Friends of the Pool in Islamorada, which gives scholarships for high school students and raises awareness of the treasured, historic lighthouses on Florida’s coastal waterways. 

“As you can see by the response on social media, the swimmers are pretty darn understanding,” he said. “They are already requesting and wanting to defer their entry fees for next year, and that assures them a spot too. It will all turn out, and I can’t wait for the race in 2021.”

More information is at swimalligatorlight.com.

Join Our Blast – Keys News Right to Your INBOX