The Other P2P: Peaks to Portland Maine

The Other P2P: Peaks to Portland Maine


The Other P2P: Peaks to Portland (Maine)

“Normal people take the ferry; exceptional people swim back” – so said the flyer for the 30th annual 2.4 mile Peaks Island to Portland’s East End Beach swim, known locally as P2P. As someone who loves ocean swimming races, and has a home in Maine, I thought it would be fun to try something new this year. As a veteran of more than 300 ocean races (since 1980) and having done Newport Pier to Pier 27 times at last count, I thought this could be interesting.

This year the race had 317 entrants, 100 more than ever, and 279 finished the race. For first-timers like myself, wetsuits were required (I had never worn a wetsuit until 6 weeks ago) and a kayaker was also strongly suggested. The water is cold here, and this course is challenging. I should not have been concerned about the wetsuit or the kayaker – all except 16 people wore a wetsuit, and all except 19 had a kayaker. The Y found a kayaker for me as well. Sponsored by the Cumberland County YMCA (Portland), this is a big fundraiser for the programs for children and this year they exceeded their goal of $16,000. It stands out as one of the best races ever, very well run, and a great experience.

The biggest differences between all those races in California and Hawaii and this one in Maine? A key difference was the suggestion to duct-tape the soles of your feet to prevent being cut by the mussel beds swimmers had to walk over, both at entry and exit. I did this, but both feet got minor cuts anyway. Another big difference was the ubiquity of wetsuits and kayakers. So often in California or Hawaii, the courses are well marked and explained. Here, we had maps of the course, but the waters are part of the shipping lanes which would be closed for two hours for this swim, but there could be no markers. That was why kayakers were needed. The course was not a straight point to point line, but indeed required strategic kayaking to get a good line depending upon conditions of the swim. Another huge difference was that one swam past Fort Gorges, built during the Civil War, on a ledge, which created its own currents and obstacles to swimmers. Kayakers needed to read the currents to figure out whether to go in close or out further from the Fort, and then the course changed direction after passing it. Logistics! Just love adding this “degree of difficulty”.

Swimmers’ needs, as well as kayakers’ needs, were primary in this swim. For example, each kayaker had to carry an extra lifejacket in the event their swimmer got into trouble, in particular, became hypothermic. The race organizers handed out the best information on hypothermia I have ever seen (I am attaching it here). Granted, people in Maine have more experience with hypothermia, but having more knowledge can only help swimmers. Kayakers were given printed flags with their swimmer’s number on them. Kayakers were really important in the race.

All in all, this was one great swim. If you want to challenge yourself and try something really different, put Peaks to Portland on that bucket list. You won’t regret it.


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