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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Swim Ocean City, An Inspiration From Corey Davis

Courtesy of Julia Galan, the director of SwimSpire, an online resource for swimming news and coaching.

Swim Ocean City returned for its second year on July 19th in Ocean City, Maryland.

Swim Ocean City offers a series of 1-, 3-, and 9-mile ocean races together with the debut of the East Coast SUP CUP paddleboard event, hosted by Walk on Water. Both events combine to form the inaugural Ocean Games.

In addition to offering an ocean experience for novice and elite athletes, the event was a successful fundraiser for the Johns Hopkins Brain and Stroke Rehabilitation Program.

When a motorcycle accident in 2007 left founder and race director Corey Davis with a traumatic brain injury, he was unable to walk. The Johns Hopkins Brain and Stroke Rehabilitation Program became his only hope after hearing that he would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. The bleakness of that prediction was followed by six months of intense treatment by a team of five dedicated professionals, led by neuropsychologist Dr. Kate Kortte. Ultimately, Davis was finally able to stand. Back on his two feet, Davis wanted to give back to the program that helped him return to his previously active lifestyle.

Race director Corey Davis with Dr. Connie Jacocks from Johns Hopkins Medicine are shown on left.

The concept of Swim Ocean City was thus born.

Davis conceived of a swimming event held in his native Ocean City which would simultaneously raise funds for the Johns Hopkins Brain and Stroke Rehabilitation Program.

He wanted to increase awareness of brain injuries and recovery while promoting the positive effects that sports have on the brain and the body. Swim Ocean City’s debut in 2013 resulted in the participation of over 160 swimmers and raised US$10,000 for Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 2014, the donated amount from 249 participants totaled over US$27,000.

"I had the honor of participating in this year’s 1-mile Swim Ocean City event, witnessing first-hand Corey’s passion and enthusiasm for the event he created, as well as the dedication, determination and organizational abilities of the entire Ocean Games team," recalls Julia Galan. "From race registration to the post-race party, the Ocean Games team acted with professionalism, competence and a positive attitude. Despite rough ocean conditions, and an overcast sky, warm hearts prevailed at this event. Organizers, participants, supporters and sponsors alike spent an enjoyable day together, racing for a great cause."

The local support was overwhelming.

Headline sponsor Atlantic/Smith, Cropper & Deeley joined over 40 businesses and organizations to support the event. An expo and live entertainment from local bands such as Elevation Zero and Blake Haley added to the ambiance.

The East Coast SUP CUP event got the Games off to a good start. The only ocean paddleboard race of its kind in Maryland, the SUP CUP featured a 4-mile elite sprint style course and 2-mile open course. Over 60 paddleboarders from across the region participated, supported by industry sponsors such as Evolve Paddleboards, and Goal Endurance, as well as K-Coast and Quiet Storm surf shops.

After the paddleboard events were complete, it was the swimmers’ turn.

180 swimmers of all ages and levels participated in the trio of ocean swims. Ensuring the participants’ safety was the Ocean City Beach Patrol, whose support provided a much-needed sense of security given the difficult conditions. The Ocean City Beach Patrol surf rescue technicians were in the water on kayaks, paddleboards and Jet Skis and on the beach to support the swimmers. Each of the 9-mile swimmers was required to have individual kayak support for safety purposes as volunteers from the Ocean City Running Club walked along the shore to provide support to swimmers.

9-mile participant Matthew Durante swims against the Ocean City skyline

Bus transportation was provided by the Ocean Games team to each of the starting sites. The 9-mile race was the first to start, followed by the 3-mile swim, culminating in the 1-mile race. "I was part of the 1-mile contingent. As we approached the shore at our starting location, the swells began to get higher and the wind and water became rougher," says Galan who finished in the top 3 in the bioprene category. "Despite the difficulties, the race got off to a good start. As expected, the swells were high, even off the shore. Compared to the 3-milers and 9-milers, however, the 1-mile race was more like a sprint to the finish. When it was over, I came out with a smile, garnished with a victory lei," and a top 3 finish in the women’s non-wetsuit category.

9-mile winner and Ocean City Beach Patrol member Robert Phiambolis with Ocean City Beach Patrol kayaker AJ Smith

It was fun to watch all of the swimmers emerging triumphant from the ocean, greeted by family, friends, and supporters. The attitude was upbeat and positive, embodying the spirit of the event itself. The fun continued with a special post-race party in a private room at Seacrets, featuring live music, more food, drinks and door prizes.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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