The 3rd Annual Jim Whelan Open Water Festival signature event is the 56th Around The Island® Swim, a 22.75mi/36.6km marathon open water swim in and around Absecon Island, NJ, which is made up of the cities of Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and Longport.
Hosted by Green Whales, Inc., the inaugural Jim Whelan Open Water Festival successfully resurrected the historic and challenging swim for its 54th installment in 2019 in honor of the late Jim Whelan; a former NJ State Senator, Mayor of Atlantic City, member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, Atlantic City teacher, and Atlantic City High School Swim Coach.
Our motto: "Honoring nostalgia in service to our community."
Through our efforts and the generous support of our sponsors, we continue to accomplish our two main goals:
The history of this legendary marathon swim began back in 1953 when two ACBP members, Ed "Dutch" Stetser and Edward Solitare, participated in a $100 bet to see who could circumnavigate Absecon Island first. It was Solitare who won, completing the grueling course in 13:30, with Stetser only an hour behind him. Throughout the following half-century, numerous international open water swimming athletes competed in the race, which was eventually called a "world championship ocean marathon."
The Around the Island® current record holder, as documented on marathonswimmers.org, remains Stéphane Gomez, from France, set in 2004 with a time of 6:37.09.
(No individual competitors finished the course.)
Jim was a significant figure in Atlantic City, and through his wife Kathy, we know he would love that our event benefits Green Whales, Inc.—a non-profit that supports swimming & water safety programs in Atlantic City and the surrounding communities.
As a young swimmer, Jim was inspired by the original Around The Island® Swim. As an adult, he wanted to revive it! He performed a solo swim around Absecon Island to raise interest. He then took the family (including the dog) on a six week journey to Canada where he entered various marathon swims with a goal to meet as many marathon open water swimmers and organizers as possible and invite them back to Atlantic City the following year. During this time, he made many more life long friends. With the help of locals, enthusiasts, and volunteers, the Around The Island® Swim was started again. With the swim in capable hands, he started a new adventure: politics! He would go on to be elected to Atlantic City Council, the Mayor's Office, NJ State Assembly, and NJ State Senate.
Along the way, he accumulated many awards and titles: Atlantic City Beach Patrol Swim Champ, SJ Championship, West Catholic Hall of Fame, Temple Hall of Fame, and International Swimming Hall of Fame--just to name a few. His political career took him all over the U.S. and the world, but his heart was always in Atlantic City. He found pleasure in the big accomplishments, but the closeness of family, lifelong friends, and Atlantic City school kids were dearest to his heart. He loved it when someone would come up to him and say, "Mr. Whelan! Remember me? Your were my swimming teacher - you taught me how to swim!"
Jim had three simple rules for life that he tried to live by and repeatedly offered to anyone who would listen: Show Up - Do Your Job - and Be Nice To People.
Jim Whelan (1948 - 2017)
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