If you are lounging in your beach chair this Sunday and would like some live entertainment to go along with your relaxation, pull up a seat at Sandy Point State Park to watch the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. ShoreBread will be among the cheering fans that will gather to watch the excitement as the experienced swimmers traverse the waves of the Bay.

The 4.4 mile swim beneath the Bay Bridge unofficially started in 1981 when Brian Earley swam from Kent Island to Sandy Point (the opposite direction of which the race is swum today.) Earley crossed the choppy water in memory of his father who had died the previous year. Two years later, Fletcher Hanks held a Bay swim in a similar location and the following year the events were combined.

Soon more and more people joined in the race and eventually it became an annual event focused on giving back. The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim is a charitable organization that pays it forward by donating to several other charities, with the majority of its proceeds going to the Maryland branch of the March of Dimes and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Although the race is rewarding, it is not for amateurs. Chuck Nabit, the race director for the past 26 years, has participated in the swim himself and detailed the many safety measures. “We have emergency vehicles, a dive squad and up to 140 vessels on site and in the water for the swim, plus more kayaks,” Nabit said. Aside from the flying elbows and kicking feet that accompany most open water swims, swimmers can expect to encounter strong currents, seasickness, and collisions with boats, jetties or bridge supports. It goes without saying that safety is of utmost importance.

With all of the other hazards awaiting competitors, jellyfish are the least of your concerns. However, the race takes place early in the season so that “the wildlife isn’t as active,” Nabit said and does not interfere with the race. Also for swimmer safety, the number of participants is capped at roughly 650. Each participant must complete a set of regulations before they are eligible to compete.

Pushing ourselves to swim along the bridge for two hours and 45 minutes does not sound like a walk in the park. But if we start practicing now and get our feet wet in a few open water events, maybe you’ll see ShoreBread in the water at the next Great Chesapeake Bay Swim! Until then, we’ll be cheering on the valiant swimmer from the safety of land, while enjoying what will likely be another beautiful weekend on the Eastern Shore.