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by Ashley Gangloff

December 31, 2008

Why they love the sport

I'm sure most of you thought the election was over, but the voting has just begun. Four U.S. Masters swimmers are up for awards granted by Open Water Man of the Year and Open Water Woman of the Year. Representing U.S. Masters Swimming, Randy Nutt, Bob Placak, Alex Kostich, and Marcia Cleveland are among others in the poll and need your support.

Open water swimming, as we learned with Monday's feature, is an event for all swimmers. Swimmers, competitive and fitness alike, embrace the sense of freedom that open water swimming provides. Swimmers test themselves in distance events, destination swims and other challenges in the open water. Open water swimming continues to gain popularity among swimmers around the world and U.S. Masters Swimming is committed to contribute to its growth by sanctioning events throughout the United States.

Ashley Gangloff, a U.S. Masters Swimming staff member, interviewed Randy about his passion for the open water and his recognition.

Ashley: How long have you been swimming in open water events?

Randy: My high school held a swim-a-thon off Fort Lauderdale Beach in the 70's and about that time I started swimming in Fort Lauderdale's Galt Ocean Mile Swim -now called the Fort Lauderdale Rough Water. In college our Coach, Bob Saunders (Marshall University), took our team to Brazil to teach kids to swim. I fell in love with travel, adventure and open water swimming there.

Ashley: What was your first open water experience?

Randy: Jones Beach body surfing as a kid, holding my younger brother and sister up above the surf. Then growing up along Fort Lauderdale's beach offered lots of early open water experiences.

Ashley: What is your most memorable open water experience?

Randy: I received a phone call from Sharon Luka who said she had tried and tried to enter several open water swims but was always told no she was not allowed - because she was blind. A friend of hers told her to call me because at that time I was directing the 12-mile Swim Around Key West . She asked if I would let her in. I said "Absolutely" right away, and "Not only can you enter but I'll help assemble the crew to help you." She could not believe that I let her enter and that she had an event to swim in. The end of that story is she swam 12 miles around Key West and we named an award after her -the Sharon Luka Spirit Award. All she needed was someone to believe in her -and give her a chance. All my open water experiences are memorable when I can help someone accomplish a goal of theirs.

Ashley: What does the recognition from mean to you?

Randy: I am humbled. It is nice to see those mentioned and notice that they give so much back to the sport of open water swimming, making it better for everyone. Not only are there gold medalists mentioned, but many serve behind the scenes working thousands of hours to make it possible for everyone to enjoy open water.

Ashley: Why do you think there is so much growth in open water swimming?

Randy: The adventure, the excitement, the friendships and the people. I can step off a plane and meet an open water swimmer for the first time and before we are at the hotel we are friends. These friendships carry on year after year, island to island, event to event. My volunteers and I work as hard as we can to make each event as much fun for the participants - in and out of the water - as we can. It reminds me of my favorite band, Led Zeppelin. They wanted to have a party and give others a fun experience. They worked hard and played hard, and when they did that they had fun too! Life is an adventure!

Ashley: What are your swimming goals for the future?

Randy: Next year's Bermuda Round the Sound Swim in October will be a blast - with a distance for everyone. The Bermuda swim is a charity event and over $300,000 has been raised so far. So I'll keep on giving back to the sport, trying to make others smile, all while living life to its fullest.

Like all U.S. Masters swimmers, Randy continues to set goals for himself. To find out more about U.S. Masters Swimming open water events visit

Want to get in on the action? U.S. Masters Swimming will be hosting a clinic for coaches, pool swimmers and open water swimmers May 22-24. Learn to swim and coach in the open water with the best of U.S. Masters Swimming. Mark your calendar; more details to follow.



  • Open Water


  • Awards