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Courtesy of Quinn Fitzgerald, Olympic Club, San Francisco, California.

Last year, The Olympic Club Rough Water Team set a goal to be the first six-person relay team in history to complete the Oceans Seven – seven major channel crossings around the world. “We did Catalina last summer, we’ll do Molokai to Oahu this summer and the English Channel in 2020,” said Rough Water Commissioner Quinn Fitzgerald. “It’s a new mountain to climb, but it also feels like we joined this secret society of aquatic adventurers.”

Fast forward one year to November 10th 2018, when The Olympic Club hosted an awards ceremony and international gathering of open water swimming luminaries. The global community of swimmers, race directors, non-profit organizations, sponsors, environmental activists and fans descended on City Clubhouse to celebrate the year’s achievements and help shape the future of the sport.

The day started with a swim practice led by World Record Holder and three-time Olympic Gold medalist, Aaron Peirsol, before moving to the second floor where leaders in the sport made short Ted Talk style presentations webcast around the globe.

Speakers ranged from institutional icons of swimming like Brent Rutemiller, CEO of both Swimming World Magazine and the International Swimming Hall of Fame, to the extreme fringe of the sport with Ram Barkai, founder of the International Ice Swimming Federation. The crowd favorite was almost certainly Ross Edgely, a British instagram fitness celebrity who three days before the summit, finished circumnavigating the entirety of Great Britain swimming! But the most memorable speech was by the inspirational speech by South African Lewis Pugh on marine conservation. Pugh uses extreme marathon swimming to draw awareness to the warming and degradation of the seas and has been honored by the United Nations as “UN Ambassador to the Oceans.”

As the world’s largest open water relay event, The Olympic Club’s own Trans Tahoe Relay had a special happy hour which was was MCd by former club President, Ed Rudloff Jr., who recounted the first Trans Tahoe Relay in 1976 before presenting awards to the overall champions (Olympic Club Elite), The Top Fundraisers (Team Sheeper) and the Spirit Award (Olympic Club 25 Year Anniversary Team).

An evening awards gala banquet topped off the day, with attendees transformed from casual attire to dazzling evening gowns and suits. The ceremonies opened with an official adjudicator from The Guinness World Records, who presented the eight open water world records achieved this year, all of whom were in the room. Local swimming legend Kim Chambers delivered an emotional keynote recounting her gruelling feat as the only woman to swim the 29 miles from the Farallon Islands. The grand finale was the WOWSA Awards presented to the top Man, Woman, Performance and Offering of the Year, which are democratically voted on by over 70,000 participants.

WOWSA Man of the Year — Antonio Arguelles
WOWSA Woman of the Year — Jaimie Monahan
WOWSA Offering of the Year — Adrian Sarchet, for his film Sea Donkey
WOWSA Performance of the Year — Margarita Llorens Bagur

When asked whether we’ll host the event going forward, Quinn Fitzgerald replied, “With our rich history in aquatics, access to world-class pools and open water, we can really bring together a global community to grow the sport we love. That’s a special feat only The Olympic Club can offer!

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