Survival suit race in Cordova draws crowds

February 15, 2017

people in survival suits jumping into the water Photo © Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times.

Cordova, Alaska—About 40 hardy souls—including eight children under the age of 12—took the plunge in Cordova’s harbor earlier this month during the annual Iceworm Festival survival suit races.

Alaska Sea Grant (ASG) helps organize the event along with local volunteers and fishermen. The competition features 4-person teams running down a dock, quickly getting into survival suits, jumping into the harbor, and swimming to a moored life raft. Donated prizes are handed out in various categories.

“This event is a longstanding tradition. Cordova is a commercial fishing town, and these suits are key safety gear found on almost every vessel,” said ASG’s Torie Baker, a longtime Marine Advisory agent working in Cordova.

The races took place on February 4.

people donning survival suits with onlookers Photo © Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times.

“It was a beautiful day, so there was great energy in town,” said Baker, a member of the race’s planning committee and a race timer. “Residents get practice donning their survival suits and having some fun. Local harbor staff and EMTs are also on hand, to help keep an eye on participants.”

ASG’s Marine Advisory Program started the survival suit races over two decades ago to highlight the importance of being familiar with safety gear while on the water.

“Marine safety is a big part of our training mission at Alaska Sea Grant,” Baker said.

Cordova’s Iceworm Festival began in 1961. Many of Cordova’s 2,000 or so residents, along with a healthy dose of visitors, participate in the many events including a theme parade, the Miss Iceworm coronation, blessing of the fleet, an arts and crafts show, and an ice cream feed.

Read a story about the festival by The Cordova Times writer and photographer Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson. Photos by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson republished with permission of The Cordova Times.

— By Paula Dobbyn

Alaska Sea Grant is a statewide marine research, education, and outreach program, and is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agents provide assistance that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy marine and coastal resources.