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The Distance Swim

What brings joy to Pemi campers? For many, accomplishing a unique and challenging activity, and Pemi’s Distance Swim is one of our iconic milestones for campers. Each summer, Pemi boys set a goal of swimming their Distance. Generations of Pemi campers have swum their Distance, helping to establish this camp tradition as a staple of the Pemi program. This open water swim is a fun, personal challenge that develops grit and resilience. It’s often among a boy’s most memorable moments at camp.

What is the Distance Swim?

Pemi’s Distance Swim is an open-water lake swim that is approximately a third of a mile long. Boys typically swim their Distance in pairs with a cabinmate or other friend. Starting on Senior Beach, the first swimmer departs swimming unassisted to the Distance Swim Float, which sits just off shore on the north side of Lower Baker Pond. The supervising counselor rows a boat to keep watch as a second camper awaits his turn. After reaching the float, the campers switch positions and the second swimmer begins the trek back to Senior Beach. 

Pemi’s swim staff prepares campers to swim their Distance. During the swim, all strokes are allowed and encouraged, especially the elementary backstroke, a personal favorite of mine. Taking a moment to catch your breath, gazing upwards towards the beautiful blue sky above, provides a moment of serenity to adjust and refocus one’s energy to finish the swim. There is no time requirement.

A Distance Swim pair celebrating their epic accomplishment!

Boys cheer each other on and camaraderie is built with your buddy swimmer. Boys can swim their Distance any day of the summer; we do see a surge in the first and last days of each session. But the savvy camper will choose a day with little wind, gorgeous sun, and a balmy summer temperature.

Recognition of Personal Achievement

Following the Distance Swim, boys are recognized in the Mess Hall with a classic Pemi cheer. The Distance Swim is daunting, yet attainable. When the newly minted distance swimmer hears their name chanted, “Distance Swimmer (Last Name)” the smile energizes the entire Mess Hall, and builds the belief for the next, aspiring distance swimmer. Successful swimmers also earn the Distance Swim Patch at the end-of-session Awards ceremony.

Open Boating

There is a practical benefit to swimming your Distance, too. A successful swim is the ticket to Open Boating. The thrill of enjoying kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, or sailboats with a buddy, unassisted (but always supervised), is such an important right of passage in the Pemi world. 

Fred Seebeck holds the record for most Distance Swims rowed in Pemi History. Pictured here in 2018 with two swimmers!

Historic

The Distance Swim is the stuff of Pemi lore, and nearly all alumni have a “distance swim” memory. In the late 1980’s one camper’s unlikely success brought the entire camp to the edge of Lower Baker cheering with disbelief and awe. And few alumni who were present will forget another camper’s successful swim, after six attempts, in the early 2000’s. There is history embedded with every Distance Swim and each Pemi camper has the opportunity to share in the tradition. 

Who is ready to swim their Distance in 2024!?!

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