As swimmers struggled through the last hundred yards Saturday, a strong current suddenly began shuttling them closer to the docked boats nearby.
It was as if Mother Nature wanted to present one more challenge to those who had traversed the warm waters of the river for 3.2 miles. In all, more than 180 participants took part in the ninth annual Beaufort River Swim, an annual event that raises money for the local YMCA's swim programs.
For the second straight year, recent Heritage Academy graduate James Hammond finished with the fastest time. He crossed the finish line on the dock at 43:34, just ahead of a few others.
Hammond, who will attend Indiana University in the fall, said he enjoys the challenge of open-water swimming, calling it a nice break from his routine. As for the conditions, Hammond felt they were pretty similar to last year's event, if a bit on the warmer side.
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"It was pretty good, yeah. I liked it," Hammond said of his swim. "A little warm, it wasn't terrible. I just enjoy doing open water because I'm more of a long-distance guy in general."
For Josie Cuda, the first of the female competitors to finish, her last stretch was a little more of an adventure. It had been two years since Cuda, a Florida State swimmer and Hilton Head High graduate, participated in the River Swim.
She found success Saturday morning, but not without a late scare.
"The thing that threw me off the most was the current, how strong it was at the end," Cuda said. "I got kind of scared because I thought I was going to go under a boat."
For a swimmer used to launching off walls and measuring distance by the number of laps, the river provided unique challenges. Cuda stayed on point by focusing on the male competitors ahead of her and trying to catch up, she said.
"It was a good change of pace. It's nice to be able to swim one straight shot," Cuda said.
Pete Palmer, chairman of the River Swim committee, emerged from the water around the hour mark, the number "1" drawn on his arm as the first official registered swimmer. After cooling off, Palmer was all smiles, though it was a workout.
He said it was another successful event, another fun morning and another fine swim.
"It was just right," Palmer said.
Follow reporter Kendall Salter at twitter.com/IPBG_Kendall.