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A Wise Man’s Approach To Crossing Catalina

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

En route to becoming the first person to complete the Oceans Seven, Stephen Redmond not only put in the swimming miles, but also he put in the air miles in a tough schedule that boggles the mind.

Not only did Redmond travel to and from Japan a few times to complete his last Oceans Seven leg across the Tsugaru Channel, but he also once traveled from his native Ireland directly to Southern California on a long transatlantic flight and then drove to meet his pilot, boat over to Santa Catalina Island, and then swim back to the mainland all in quick fashion without much sleep.

His 12 hour 39 minute Catalina Channel crossing in October 2011 was brutal. It was tough not because Redmond was not capable of handling the physicality of swimming 20.2 miles between the island and the mainland, but because he had just traveled so far.

He enjoyed no real rest before jumping into the Pacific Ocean after crossing so many time zones.

But Redmond’s plan to meet his captain in San Pedro and then boat over to Catalina Island, stretch, ointment up, put on the goggles, stretch, and jump in the water is more often done than not.

Hank Wise, the head coach of Swim Focus and Rocket Fish, has the luxury of being local. He is planning on his fourth career Catalina Channel crossing. In contrast to Redmond’s time-stressed journey, Wise seems to have a more relaxing plan in the leadup to his Catalina-to-mainland crossing.

He and his support crew* gathers at the San Pedro Catalina Express Terminal either in the morning or early afternoon before his swim to comfortably travel over to Catalina Island in the Catalina Express service. The Catalina Express includes 8 high-speed ferries with up to 30 departures daily that cross the channel in about an hour. The largest is a 145-foot ferry that travels at 37 knots.

“They arrive early and relaxed. Then they can eat a leisurely dinner on the island or catch a water taxi to his escort boat where everyone eats dinner while going over their plans and the conditions expected in their overnight traverse to the mainland. “Hank usually sleeps and rest with plenty of quiet time and then wakes up ready to go around midnight or soon thereafter,” observed Steven Munatones.

On his fourth attempt, Wise plans to wake up around 1:30 am and then transit to Doctor’s Cove and prep for this swim start around 2:30 am.

His goals for this crossing are as he has had on his previous crossings of 8 hours 7 minutes 3 seconds in 2010, 8 hours 7 minutes 37 seconds in 2015, and 10 hours 56 minutes in 2015 (MC). “I want quick feeds with no stop longer than 7 seconds, no breaks, no stopping to stretch, just consistent progress,” the Stanford graduate explains. “Safety is #1, finishing is #2, and having a good time is #3 with a very straight navigation line to Terranea Point, and enjoying a positive time with a harmonious crew all working together.”

But he waxes profoundly on each attempt. “We admit to being humbled by the great ocean. As if it were a giant bear and we are but ants scrambling across its mighty chest in the wee hours of the night and morning as the bear slumbers…quiet, consistent effort, traveling a straight line path to the other side.”

* Escort boat captains Frances and Bill Garrett of Boat Penelope, observers Chris Geer and Julie Bender, and kayakers Sean Lieppman and Peter Knapp.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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