By Sam Elliott
Longtime Carmel resident Bob Spearman has channeled his physically competitive spirit into running marathons, triathlons and even a half Iron Man.
But his latest athletic adventure was a new challenge for the 54-year-old businessman, father and grandfather: Swimming more than 3 miles across Tampa Bay as part of the 2019 Tampa Bay Frogman Swim Jan. 13 in Tampa, Fla.
The event is a fundraiser for the U.S. Navy SEAL Foundation, a cause close to Spearman’s heart.
“I’m sort of connecting the dots after all these years and saying it’s time to take a step back and try to help these guys. That’s why I’m swimming,” Spearman said. “This is a way for me to show my gratitude for the sacrifices made by SEALSs and their families.”
Spearman nearly raised his entire $2,000 goal before the event, and donations can still be made at legacy.imathlete.com/donate/bobspearman. More information on Spearman, his training preparation and fundraising can be found at facebook.com/frogmanbob.
“It was a great event and I hope to participate again next year,” Spearman said. “There were Gold Star families there greeting the swimmers as we finished the course, and I was able to (briefly) talk to one mom whose son passed in Afghanistan. At the post-event get-together, I was able to have a more personal conversation with her. That was very interesting.”
The Frogman Swim also pairs participants with a fallen Navy SEAL to swim in his honor. Spearman was assigned Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer Matthew Mason, who died Aug. 6, 2011, from wounds when his helicopter was shot down.
“He was an athlete and avid runner, too, so it’s neat to be paired up with this guy,” Spearman said.
Spearman began his training in August 2018 in the Carmel High School pool, where he expected the water temperature of around 78 degrees to be far warmer than Tampa Bay. He caught a break in Tampa, thanks to an unseasonably warm January weekend.
“The water temperature was actually probably around 67 degrees, so it really wasn’t too bad,” Spearman said. “Last year when they did it, it was in the mid-50s.”