It seems the annual Pier-2-Pier Swim Race is always facing challenges. A massive swarm of jellyfish drifted into swimmers mid-race a few years back. Hurricane Florence canceled the event two years ago. Hurricane Dorian nearly stopped it last year.
Even though it’s now facing a pandemic, the event held in memory of Ryan Alea Young swims on for its 16th year on Saturday, Sept. 12.
The 1.7 miles race challenges upwards of 300 athletes to swim from Johnnie Mercers Pier to Crystal Pier — or vice versa, depending on the prevailing current on race day.
Race director Trent Hayden, who began his tenure as director when Florence hit, says rather than negatively impacting the event, the coronavirus might boost numbers.
“Because of COVID, we’re actually anticipating a lot of people because people are waiting to race,” he says. “These types of athletes who compete all year are ready to go after not being able to race.”
In light of the pandemic, competitors will be staggered in a time-trial start so that each swimmer has ample, open space to swim. Social distancing protocols will be in place on the beach so everyone can be safely spaced apart.
The race begins promptly at 9 a.m. The proceeds from the $40 entry fee benefit the Cape Fear Aquatic Club competition fund, which trains young competitive swimmers from the ages of 5 to 18.
The race honors former University of North Carolina Wilmington swim team member Ryan Alea Young, who passed away in 2009. Young’s father, Glenn, still attends each year to give the racers encouragement.