HOLMES BEACH -- Garry Fenimore ignored the choppy waves and whipping wind Wednesday morning, diving off Anna Maria Island and into the Gulf in a wet suit.
"It's the worst it's been in a while, it's crazy," said Fenimore. "It was difficult to get into the water and it was difficult getting back out."
Fenimore, an IT consultant, had originally planned to have the Anna Maria Island Open Water Club meet for a Christmas Eve swim, but the group swim was canceled due to the rough conditions. But Fenimore wasn't deterred from hopping in the water by himself.
Fenimore started the swim club in May looking for a way to feel more involved in his hometown in Manatee County. They go for swims off Anna Maria Island every Sunday around 9 a.m.
"I'm new to swimming," Fenimore said. "I travel a lot and feel like I get disconnected. Swimming felt like a good way to reconnect to the community, and I love this beach."
Fenimore said he's looking to turn the group into a "world-class open water club." Right now they have five or six regular members, and Sunday swims have sometimes seen as many as 10 people. Fenimore wants to build on that.
"There's no organized swim on Anna Maria Island right now, and we want to get one," Fenimore said. "We're hoping for October 2015, maybe a 5K, but it all depends on what people want."
David Ezell, a founding member of the club and a Bradenton firefighter, said he just started getting into swimming last year. He and two others did the 12.5-mile swim around Key West in June, splitting it in a relay between the three of them. In 2015, after training year-round with the open water club, he's planning to do the complete swim on his own.
"Swimming is a good way to disconnect and unwind stress," Ezell said. "It's good exercise, it's low impact and it's a great way to start the day."