“I was inspired to organize and coordinate the Maryland Swim for Life – now in its 24th year – by my first Provincetown Swim for Life.” So states legendary activist swimmer Joe Stewart of Baltimore, who has employed his love of swimming and the environment to organize a handful of open water swims in the Chesapeake Bay area. He and Bill Silvestri will be the first to complete twenty-five Swims for Life this year on September 12, but that’s only the beginning for him. Both swimmers will receive the Long Point Award from the Provincetown Community Compact, Swim sponsors.
Chesapeake Bay is a complex, ecologically and economically important natural resource with 150 rivers and streams flowing into it. The northern Bay is Maryland territory where Joe has swum numerous times – from eight to thirteen miles – for AIDS and environmental causes. He organized the “For the River’s Sake” swim in 1993, which evolved into the ongoing “Potomac River Swim for the Environment”, the Eastern Shore Marathon Swim and the Patapsco River Swim, which focused on the urban watershed.
I asked Joe a few questions:
What do you like about swimming?
I like the feeling of being “outside gravity”, the meditative Zen frame of mind that I can get when doing laps in a pool or out in open water and the mind-body-spirit exercise I get through swimming.\
What was your first Swim for Life like?
Inspiring and joyful.
How has the Swim evolved/changed since your first swims?
The number of participants has increased which has its own challenges and rewards. The celebratory spirit and sense of community has remained an integral ingredient to the Swim over time.
It has become an annual ritual, which I look forward to and enjoy.
What has kept you so passionate about it for so long?
The sense of community, celebratory spirit and feeling of accomplishment, especially with other liked-minded people, keeps bringing me back. Perhaps I should state the obvious: Provincetown is a very special place – one of the most beautiful natural places there is – with a very sophisticated but small town charm.