It all started over a cup of coffee.
Sam Farnan, a senior at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, dreamed of being a SEAL. But as any veteran of the U.S. Navy’s elite Special Operations unit will tell you, to make muster, you must conquer cold water.
So Terry Tomalin, the outdoors-fitness editor for the St. Petersburg Times, suggested the 17-year-old accompany him on a swim across Tampa Bay. Tomalin and some friends at Clearwater Beach Safety had made the crossing several times in fall of 1996.
Tampa Bay Watch, one of Florida’s leading environmental advocacy groups, heard about the swim and subsequently staged organized races along the same route in the spring of ’97, ’98 and ’99.
That’s when the proverbial light bulb went off in the head of Commander Dan O’Shea USNR. O’Shea, a former SEAL who had been mentoring Farnan since the boy was 10-years-old, suggested they turn the New Year’s swim into a fundraiser for a SEAL officer who had recently been wounded in Afghanistan.
O’Shea enlisted the help of Lt. Mark Lampman, an active duty SEAL, and together the four organized the first Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. Conditions were harsh – the water temperature hovered in the mid 50s – but nearly 40 swimmers managed to make it across the bay and raise thousands of dollars in individual pledges for the injured SEAL officer, Lt. Dan Cnossen and his family.
After the success of the 2010 event, former SEAL and swim coach Rory O’Connor along with triathlete/swimmer Kurt Ott, son of the legendary SEAL Norm Ott, webmaster Doug Santo, another SEAL veteran, volunteer coordinator Annie Okerlin, O’Shea and Tomalin put together a follow up to the successful inaugural event. The Tampa Bay Frogman Swim has now raised over $3 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, sells out annually in about 15 minutes, and has been named as one of America’s Top 50 Open Water Swims.
We’re now brought this very unique event to the west coast with the annual San Francisco Frogman Swim. The name was changed from the Golden Gate Frogman Swim beginning with the 2019 event to give the event more flexibility to choose a course, which may vary year to year. We hope to build the same support and loyal community we forged in Tampa Bay and create a fun and successful event in the Bay area.
Thanks for all of your continued support!