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Hudson River Swim - 1995-2006

The Hudson River Swim was a 26-mile team relay-style open water swim that started beneath the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown and finished at the North Cove Yacht Harbor of the World Financial Center in Downtown Manhattan. The event began and finished at the North Cove Yacht Harbor of the World Financial Center. In the morning, participants boarded the Entrepreneur II Yacht for a breakfast cruise up the Hudson River to Tarrytown to begin the Swim. Upon return to NYC, participants were invited back aboard the Entrepreneur II Yacht for a post-swim celebration.

The Hudson River Swim's popularity and fundraising brought awareness and publicity to the Swim Across America mission, providing seed money to help other communities flourish and start their own swims.

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"While we were running the Hudson River Swim, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to grow the Swim Across America organization. We asked ourselves, "If we could be incredibly successful at funding cancer research in New York, why not replicate what we are doing here and expand to other major markets across the country?" The Hudson was the first swim that actually provided seed money to start events all over the country and thankfully, 35 years later, with our unbelievable network of volunteers, we have been able to raise over $100m for major cancer institutions in the US." - Bob Coakley (SAA Board Member)




The following article, written by Fitness Swimmer editor Mary Bolster, appeared in the January/February 1999 issue.

Some of the perks of editing a swim magazine are working with great people and supporting worthwhile causes. In 1998, not only did I swim in the Against the Tide event to benefit breast cancer research but I also participated in a relay swim down the Hudson river to raise money for cancer research. Sponsored by Swim Across America, a charitable foundation established by Jeff Keith, who lost his leg to cancer, the 26-mile slog through the sometimes funky waters of New York is a hoot.

The swim raises money and the swimmers raise a ruckus.

Imagine a boatload of former Olympians and current Wall Street ruffians cruising down the Hudson, chomping on Power Bars, sucking down packets of Gu, making deals on cell phones, and divebombing off the boat to churn through choppy seas for 15 minutes at a stretch, and you have my idea of an afternoon.

Keith has also managed to assemble a loyal cast of characters to increase the profile and the fundraising standards of an already impressive event. Every year Rowdy Gaines, a 1984 Olympian, and Chris Jacobs, a 1988 Olympian, spearhead a group of Olympic swimmers who lend a certain cachet and ambiance to the swim. This year Tim McKee, Steve Lundquist, Rogue Santos, and Eric Wunderlich were on board to inspire, or, in some cases, to goad, participants to leap into the frothy depths of the river. Actually, I've never been with a more intrepid group of swimmers. They thought nothing of leaping off the deck of the yacht into the brown water 20 feet below, just under the Tappen Zee Bridge; they scoffed at lightning bolts flashing in the distance; they chortled through a brief but torrential downpour; they snorted at the nausea-inducing waves; and, most impressively, they hooted and hollered with glee and abandon just before their full-scale assault on the North Cove Yacht Harbor at the end of the swim. Wave followed wave, as each relay team plunged into the warm, soupy water and hightailed it, eyes and mouths firmly closed, to the dock and the hoses of fresh, clean water which awaited us. A crowd of business people gaped incredulously, not sure whether to applaud or gag.

I, too, was once incredulous. Now, I'm a convert. It's inspiring to know that people have juggled their busy schedules to spend a day swimming down the Hudson to raise money for cancer research. Its refreshing to see corporations donating thousands of dollars to the cause. Its uplifting to see Olympians put aside their egos, join the fun, and heighten people's awareness of the event. And its transforming to be a part of such a swim. Every time I jumped in, I thought of those marathon maniacs who swim around Manhattan every summer. Boy, do I have respect for them. The Hudson is healthier now than it ever was, but it's no tropical paradise. There may be marine life in there, but you'll never see it in those opaque waters.

But as with any benefit swim, you don't think about that. You think about how doing something you love - swimming - can actually save lives or make them less painful. You think about how your discomfort pales to the discomfort of people living with cancer. That thought, more than anything else, is what gets you through those last yards of suspiciously warm and salty water.



Swim Across America is celebrating 35 years of impact in 2022. SAA has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.