Among the families gathering Sunday morning at Scarborough’s Ferry Beach was a young man in a black wet suit.

Page Beecher, the two-time defending champion of the Peaks to Portland swim, was reacclimating himself to swimming in a natural setting.

Most of the time the 19-year-old Scarborough native – entering his junior year in the fall at Alfred University, where he was MVP of the swim team this year – is guided by the lanes and cement confines of pools.

“I start swimming in Sebago Lake and the ocean prior to the Peaks to get the feel back of the open water because it’s totally different,” Beecher said. “You don’t have the walls to rely on.”

Of course, training at Ferry Beach provided its own obstacles: lobster traps, seaweed, various watercraft. But the water at that inlet is warmer than it’ll be Saturday morning in Casco Bay, when Beecher will be joined by nearly 200 others on the 2.4 mile crossing from Peaks Island to the mainland.

This will be his fifth year as part of the event, which raises money for the Cumberland County YMCA, and he’s never finished lower than seventh. This summer Beecher says that he has been “training hard,” looking forward to the challenge of winning three in a row.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a good event and it raises money for the Y,” he says. “It brings people together to do something we enjoy.”

Last year Beecher finished nearly five minutes behind his 2004 winning time of 42:53, but all of the swimmers were affected by the choppy seas. Waves, wind and the chill of the water are all factors in the event, and swimmers also need to make sure they avoid other competitors and their kayakers.

Beecher was planning to spend no more than a half-hour in the water at Ferry Beach. It was just his second time working out in saltwater this summer, but he’s done a few long-distance swims at Sebago Lake, training with his father.

“When I go out to the lake we do a couple miles and my dad’s right there beside me just to get the feel back with a kayaker, keep our distances down and get our bearings,” Beecher says. “He’s been my kayaker for the past four years. It’s something we both enjoy and something we can share.”

Beecher says that there is a history of swimming in his family and that many summer days have been spent together at Sebago.

“I just love to swim,” he says, “so that’s what I do.”

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