Provided/Samantha Chabotar Elko

ATLANTIC CITY – Former USA National Swim Team member Samantha Chabotar Elko of Egg Harbor Township plans to do something she hasn’t done for several years. On Sunday, Aug. 18 the former University of Pittsburgh swimming standout will be duplicating an open water course around Absecon Island that includes Atlantic Ocean currents, tidal flow inlets and back bay environments in a clockwise direction.

Elko, who has finished the course three times, was the female champion of the Around the Island Swim in 1996. The trainer who guided her around the island was former NJ Senator and Atlantic City Mayor Jim Whelan, who in 1978 completed a solo swim around Absecon Island to bring energy, excitement, and awareness back to the Around The Island Swim.

Provided/Former Senator Jim Whelan and Samantha Chabotar Elko during the 1996 Around the Island swim.

The rigorous 22.5-mile swim includes swimming in both the ocean and the back bay. Elko is hoping that the energy and excitement generated by her solo swim will bring the Around the Island Swim back to Atlantic City as an international event in 2020.

A dedicated group of swimming volunteers is working with the City of Atlantic City, Middle Atlantic Swimming, USA Swimming and FINA to reinstate the competition as a premier international event next year.

“Jim Whelan’s record breaking solo swim in 1978 inspired a generation of open water swimmers,” FINA Vice-chairman and USA Swimming’s longtime open water leader Sid Cassidy said. “Samantha’s attempt will do the same. Bringing back the international race in 2020 would be something to excite the entire community and bring positive exposure worldwide.”

Elko said the Around the Island Swim was one of the most beloved open water swims in the world.

“The best marathon swimmers in the world loved the challenge of the course, the uniqueness of being so close to spectators in the back bays, and it highlighted all the best of Atlantic City. It’s exciting to think about the possibility of swimmers and fans having the opportunity to experience this extraordinary event again.”

For more information or to support, volunteer or learn more about Elko’s swim or the future of the Around The Island Swim, email


Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.