Swimmers Gathered for Cross-Bay Relay Thwarted by Weather

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Swimmers begin wading to a safety boat off Sunset Beach Resort Saturday before starting a recreational swim to Kiptopeke State Park. The swim allowed them to warm up while weather delays pushed the start back from 8 a.m. and threatened to shorten the course.

By Adolphus Ames –
Photos by Jim Ritch –
The Delmarva Dogfish swim team gathered together to swim a relay route from Cape Charles to Virginia Beach this past Saturday. The group is based out of the Richard A. Henson Family YMCA in Salisbury, Md.

The event was planned in memory of Erik Mezick, who used to train and swim with the Dogfish team. Mezick died the morning of Dec. 29, 2020, when the box truck he was driving across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel crashed through the guard rail and plunged off the bridge into the bay.

“Erik was full of energy,” said Jay DeBerardinis, a friend and former teammate. “He would work long shifts and show up at the YMCA at 7 the next morning ready to swim several miles. He was very athletic.”

Jim Trauger, a Masters swimmer and frequent visitor to the Salisbury YMCA, came up with the idea for the memorial swim while viewing a picture he had taken of a sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The sunrise was near the same spot where Mezick died. “I just knew we had to do something for him,” he said.

Masters swimmers are part of a national nonprofit for competitive swimming for people 18 years of age and older.

Trauger knows very well the struggle that accompanies losing a loved one. A few weeks prior to Mezick’s accident, Trauger’s brother, Tom, died when a truck driver crashed into a group of cyclists on U.S. 95 near Las Vegas.

The swim was initially set to occur at 6 a.m. near the Sunset Beach Hotel, but the U.S. Coast Guard placed the team under a weather advisory delay.

Around 8:30 a.m., the group gathered in a circle on the Shore near The Jackspot. Mezick’s daughter, Hannah, thanked everyone for honoring her father and then friends and family took turns sharing kind words about Mezick and reflecting on how much he inspired them to live life to the fullest. This was followed by a brief moment of silence.

Swimmers were eager but unable to swim in the planned relay format. “The small craft advisory remained in effect for the day,” said Dave Speier, event organizer. “The swimmers went in the water and they swam the total distance, but not across the bay. There are plans to complete the crossing at a later date when conditions are more favorable.”

The relay would have featured four teams of six swimmers taking 20-minute turns swimming an 18-mile route that followed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Each team would have been accompanied by the Coast Guard, a boat filled with Mezick’s family and friends, and a kayak to support the swimmers in the water.

The Dogfish created a fundraiser for the Mezick family. So far, the team has raised over $11,000, surpassing its goal of $10,000. Donations can be made at https://www.givesendgo.com/Swim4Erik

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