Whistoff challenges competition during ninth Pier-2-Pier swim to benefit YMCA

by Matt Corpening
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lumina News file photo 

The 19 and older wave of the Wilmington Family YMCA Pier-2-Pier Swim gets underway at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier on Sept. 15, 2012.

The Pier-2-Pier Swim, an open water ocean race hosted by the Wilmington YMCA and the Cape Fear Aquatic Club, will return to Wrightsville Beach for the ninth time on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. Matt Wisthoff is a local triathlete and has swum the Pier-2-Pier twice, last year and two years ago. He said his training isn’t modified in order to prepare for the swim, rather the swim becomes part of his training regimen.

“It fits into my racing schedule. It’s a good tune-up for the rest of what I’m doing,” said Wisthoff, whose schedule is fairly full. “I’ll be racing the weekend before and the weekend after in triathlons, up in White Lake and then the Wilmington YMCA triathlon.” 

The White Lake triathlon includes a 1,500-meter swim, a 45k bike and a 10k run, and the YMCA triathlon, to take place at Wrightsville Beach, is made up of a 1,500-meter swim, a 20k bike and a 5k run.

The Pier-2-Pier Swim is open to swimmers aged 11 and older. Race direction will be determined on race day based on the prevailing ocean current. A shuttle will assist in parking and transportation, taking participants from Autumn Hall Realty on Eastwood Road to the race start. Wisthoff said he is able to gauge his position in the race while in the water and knows there will be a presence of worthy competitors.

“You usually have a pretty good idea of where you are. For this swim, there is usually some strong talent that comes in, some top open water swimmers that have swum the event in past years, also some college teams come in,” Wisthoff said. “There’s always a pretty elite front group that forms up right off the bat, then it becomes a race of attrition and people start falling off pace.”

The distance from Johnnie Mercer’s Pier to Crystal Pier is 1.71 miles. An extra .3 of a mile of race distance is accounted for by the implementation of a dry start and finish, meaning that participants will start on land and swim beyond the breakers to a buoy before starting parallel to the beach, and then swim back in to shore to finish. Wisthoff hopes to perform better than he did last year, but admits it’s a tough challenge. He will call upon his ocean experience to gain an advantage over his inland-dwelling competition.

“Last year I had a really good race. There were some fast swimmers from UNC Chapel Hill and elsewhere,” he said. “If we swam in the pool, they would beat me. But one or two seconds can add up when you know how to get through the surf fast, how to sight correctly and how to bodysurf a wave in at the end.”

Register for $55 at www.setupevents.com or at Toad Hollow Swim and More, where packets can be picked up from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13. 

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