Festivals / Funky / News / Southwest Florida

2013 Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim: Coolest 4th of July activity


2009 Freedom Swim. Photo courtesy the Sun Herald.

2009 Freedom Swim. Photo courtesy the Sun Herald.

PUNTA GORDA — Plenty of people brave the heat for a traditional Fourth of July picnic.

But here’s an event that I would nominate as the coolest Florida Fourth activity: The 2013 Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim.

2009 Freedom Swim in Punta Gorda

2009 Freedom Swim in Punta Gorda, Photo courtesy Sun Herald.

Freedom Swim 2010

Michael P. Haymans, one of the founders of the Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim with participants in the 2010 event.

Punta Gorda and its two bridges over the Peace River

Punta Gorda and its two bridges over the Peace River

Twenty two years ago, it began when Michael Haymans, a Punta Gorda attorney, and friends decided to celebrate the Fourth of July by swimming the 1.5 mile distance across the Peace River. They weren’t athletes in training; they had heard stories about how in the 1940s, swimming across the river was a rite of passage for teens.

Over the years, the event has grown and this year, hundreds are expected. But it still retains its character; its founders like to think of it as a happening.

They don’t race. They don’t even necessarily swim. Some people are on stand up paddle boards. Others float on plastic noodles or inflatable rafts and kick across. Kayaks join the procession with dogs on board. And, yes, some do swim; some make it across the river in 30 minutes.

Punta Gorda’s spokesperson has described it as a “bobblefest.”  There are no registration fees, no prizes and no rules except using common sense and courtesy. (Swim with a buddy!)  Many swimmers go for red, white and blue attire. For a few years, some swimmers took “freedom” to another level: They swam au natural and ran their swim suits up the mast of their sailboat. (Word has it that sailboat owner isn’t around any longer.) Here, however, is the skinny for 2013:

The annual 4th of July Freedom Swim starts on the north side of the southbound US 41 bridge and ends at Harpoon Harry’s in Fishermen’s Village. The 2013 swim start time is noon. It is recommended participants be at the starting point a half hour early. You should park at Fishermen’s Village: The Green Hibiscus Trolley will provide transportation from 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. between Fishermen’s Village and the public beach where the swim starts.

Over at Fishermen’s Village, Punta Gorda will keep the swimmers happy with live music  by “Beans and Seeds” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the band “Mercy” from 5 to 9 p.m.  The fireworks display over Charlotte Harbor begins at 9 p.m.

Fishermen’s Village Waterfront Mall, Resort and Marina is located off Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda. From I-75, take exit 164, turn left and proceed three miles to Fishermen’s Village. Call (941) 639-8721 for more information or visit on line at www.fishville.com.

Call 941-639-8721 for more information on Punta Gorda’s Fourth of July activities and the Charlotte Habor Freedom Swim.

Here’s a YouTube video of a past race.

Tips on participating in the Freedom Swim

The growth and popularity of the Freedom Swim has resulted in additional Coast Guard requirements. In order to keep the Freedom Swim alive, organizer Michael Haymans has agreed to some steps to ensure safety at the event.  These include:

  • If you are not a strong swimmer, don’t get in the water, Haymans said. Watch from the bridge or take a kayak or paddleboard. One year, a hundred participants were pushed upriver and had to be rescued by law enforcement boats, Haymans said. Swimmers requiring rescue by officials are a mark against the Freedom Swim, he said.
  • No children should participate on their own and no swimmers should undertake the swim alone. All swimmers should have close support.
  • All swimmers must sign in at the start of the race.

Things to do in Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda's Muscle Car City Museum

The Muscle Car City Museum displays Rick Treworgy’s personal collection of Detroit’s finest vehicles.

Punta Gorda is a great anchor to explore a region with lots of outdoors activities. Here’s a Florida Rambler guide to things to do in Punta Gorda. A few things to recommend in particular, all covered in this story:  If you want an indoor activity, consider the first-rate Muscle Car City Museum. There’s a terrific fish shack in a quaint Cracker cabin there: I’ve written a story all about Peace River Seafood here.

Resources for planning a visit to Punta Gorda

Nearby destinations recommended by Florida Rambler:

Send to Kindle

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: 2013 Charlotte Harbor Freedom Swim: Coolest 4th of July activity | EYES! On News

  2. What time does it start?

    • Bob: The swim start time is 2 p.m. It is recommended participants be at the starting point no later than 1:30 p.m. You should park at Fishermen’s Village: The Green Hibiscus Trolley will provide transportation from there to the swim starting point beginning at noon.

  3. Sally Weldon says:

    go Clifford and Tracy!!

Comment on this article

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


− 3 = zero

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Web Analytics