There’s never been a shark attack in southeast Alaska, so even if you were traumatized watching “Jaws” at an early age, you can safely turn out for the Pennock Island Challenge – a swimming race/fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. The race was founded in 2004 and quickly earned a place on the World’s Top 100 Open Water Swims (it’s one of just 11 U.S. open water swims listed).
The race course is an 8.2 mile circumnavigation of Pennock Island, which makes it one of the most unique – and one of the longest - open-water marathons you’re likely to find. (Seasoned swimmers usually take between 3 and 4 hours to finish). Enter as a solo swimmer or as a 2- or 4-person relay, and there is a wetsuit category as well.
Even in August, the waters of the Tongass Narrows – at temps between 50 and 60 degrees – are colder than many of those other races. But as one recent racer put it, the people are warmer! “The whole town seemed glad to see us, there was a continuous swell of camaraderie and support out welling for locals, officials and fellow competitors from start to finish and the fantastic banquet afterwards.”
The waters around Pennock Island are mostly protected from large surf and the current helps move you along. You may encounter jellyfish, salmon, and the occasional whale. Don’t worry, kayak or boat escorts are along for the ride ICOO (In Case Of Orca!) In addition to sealife, you might also spot some of the residents of Pennock Island, which was settled by fishermen in the 1930s and still hosts around 70+ people.