Annual Swim – “Newport Sharkfest”
An article popped up on our radar by Newport This Week. It is about Clean Ocean Access‘ upcoming annual swim that has been dubbed” Swim to Skim”, which raises awareness of the Marina Trash Skimmer’srole of improved water quality. We at Marina Accessories are excited to see new ways to bring awareness to marine debris and the Marina Trash Skimmer. Thank you Newport This Week and Clean Ocean Access for your support!
By Eliza Radeka
Clean Ocean Access’s annual swim, once known as Newport Sharkfest, has earned a new name in honor of the marina trash skimmers that were installed around Aquidneck Island in 2016 and 2017.
Dubbed “Swim to Skim,” the July 8 event invites swimmers of all ages and skill levels to swim from Perrotti Park to King Park to raise awareness of the marine skimmers’ role in improved water quality.
These large filters run 24 hours a day, capturing floating debris and other contaminants, like surface oil. In 2017 alone, the skimmers collected almost 8,000 pounds of marine waste.
“[Swim to Skim] should help to inspire people that marine debris is a solvable problem that starts with removing litter on land,” said Clean Ocean Access Executive Director Dave McLaughlin.
The event starts at 7 a.m. Swimmers will line up on the dock at Perrotti Park before jumping into the water and swimming 0.9 miles across Newport Harbor to the finish line at King Park. Some swimmers may choose to complete an additional rectangle at the end of the course for a total distance of 1.5 miles.
McLaughlin anticipates seeing anywhere from 80 to 130 swimmers, some as young as 12. The fastest swimmers have historically completed the course within 17 to 21 minutes. “It’s normally not safe to swim in Newport Harbor with all the boat traffic,” he said. “This is the time to do it.”
Four safety boats will supervise the swimmers, as well as several dozen volunteers on standup paddleboards and kayaks, who will create a channel to guide swimmers along the course.
The event will welcome recreational and experienced swimmers alike, as well as several VIP guests, including Olympic silver medalist and Saunderstown native Elizabeth Beisel, and 11th Hour Racing Co-Founder Rob MacMillan. Trent Theroux, marathon swimmer and spinal cord injury survivor, will also swim in the event. Theroux was recently featured in Sports Illustrated for his record 41-mile swim around Aquidneck Island.
Both swimmers and spectators recognize the event’s significance and impact on the community. Kathy Lewis, who has already registered to swim this year, understands the importance of keeping our oceans clean and safe.
“Swimming in the Newport Harbor makes me aware of the necessity of clean water,” she said. “Every single person who is lucky enough to live on or by the ocean should take pride and help in the efforts of many.”
McLaughlin also emphasizes the importance of forming a community around these issues. Clean Ocean Access hosts beach cleanups throughout the year and plans to introduce a weekly tour of the marine skimmers.
“I really like the fact that environmental work is community-building and really brings people together,” he said.
Swim to Skim and other Clean Ocean Access events are made possible with the help of volunteer teams who are dedicated to preserving ocean health.
“Plastic pollution and ocean litter has become personal,” said Mc- Laughlin. “Everyone knows about it and people want to do something about it.”
Clean Ocean Access will use the proceeds raised at Swim to Skim to fund its marine skimmer education and outreach programs, targeting school groups, youth groups, senior centers and other community members.
Spectators can help support the cause by donating on behalf of swimmers on The Clean Ocean Access CrowdRise pages.
Though on the surface, Swim to Skim recognizes the positive effects of marine skimmers, Mc- Laughlin especially likes the event “because it brings together the perfect synergy of [Clean Ocean Access’s] three core programs: Clean, Ocean and Access.”
Marine skimmers fall under the Clean program, which also includes beach cleanups and plastic bag ordinances, among other efforts.
Clean Ocean Access monitors water quality around Aquidneck Island as part of its Ocean program. Swim to Skim “should also bring attention to the City of Newport’s work in eliminating combined sewage overflow,” said McLaughlin. This occurs when storm water and wastewater combine and overflow into the ocean.
Finally, Swim to Skim celebrates the Access program by bringing people together on the Newport waterfront for shared ocean activities. Clean Ocean Access uses the Access program to ensure that designated shoreline access points around Aquidneck Island remain open to the public.
Ultimately, Clean Ocean Access hopes to use all three programs to promote ocean health for generations to come. For McLaughlin, this goal is somewhat personal.
“When I think about the ocean and what it means to me in my life, it’s always been a restoring force. It’s that sense of well-being,” he said. “I feel almost like it’s my duty to protect ocean health because it’s been such an integral part of my life.”