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Small Talk About Big Things In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

At last night’s annual Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association banquet in San Pedro, California, the information shared in the course of conversation were inspirational and interesting to say the least.

In conversations with Angel More [shown above with banquet host and organizer Evan Morrison about her 7 hour 37 minute channel crossing from Anacapa Island to mainland, we learned how early and how well acclimated the 14-year-old was for cold, rough open water swimming.

I get up at 4 am and then meet Evan at Aquatic Park for training before I go to school,” recalled More who has already completed 51 confirmed Alcatraz Island crossings in her career.

She gets in [the sub-15°C water] and swims for hours without getting cold,” said Morrison.

We have been to South Africa to participate in the Midmar Mile and will try Catalina Channel next year,” explained her parents. “We enjoy our family vacations around swims around the world.”

Amy Appelhans Gubser, a former standout age-group swimmer who later competed for the University of Michigan, recalled her years of long workouts with tough-minded coaches. “I would do repeats and just could not get my heartrate to increase. But I loved backstroke and would prefer to do the 100 rather than the 200 backstroke.

In the collegiate workouts, Olympic swim coach Jon Urbanchek identified her talent for distance swimming.

His identification of her potential was only confirmed a few decades after the famed coach first saw her in Michigan when she set a record from the California mainland to Anacapa Island in 6 hours 2 minutes. “I got into open water swimming when a friend of mine challenged me and we went to Aquatic Park. The water was so cold and I did not want to get in. But then a South End Rowing Club member told me to swim to the end of the pier and I ended up swimming the buoys. When I got out, I felt so alive.”

Urbanchek’s prediction and her innate toughness proved true again when she completed a crossing of Monterey Bay in northern California. Her 17 hour 49 minute swim at the age of 49, only the fourth individual in history to complete the 49 km swim, was accompanied by her husband and son who served as her escort kayakers.

There were so many jellyfish – I was swimming through the jellyfish on every stroke. And the water was 51°F, but I was fine with it.”

Her husband Greg was on her crew. And he was on the crew with the famed John York and Cindy Cleveland, two International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Swimmers. “The feeding back in the day were different. Sometimes, people fed every hour – and sometimes not at all. I remember on Cindy’s first circumnavigation attempt of Catalina Island. Her crew ate all her food and the swim was called.”

While that may have happened back in the 1970’s, everyone in the contemporary Santa Barbara Channel marathon swimming community was very appreciative of their own escort crews.

Alice Ma who swam from Anacapa Island to mainland said, “I am fairly new to the sport. For 11 hours 9 minutes, it was wonderful out there [in the Pacific Ocean]. This [crossing] was the best thing ever and I have the best crew. There was also a whale swimming under me during the swim. It burped. That is what my kayaker said. I am coming back for more.”

Karina Garcia who set a female record of 5 hours 28 minutes from Anacapa Island to mainland knew she was close to the record, but was also realistic about her chances to beat Michelle Macy’s record time. “I never thought that I would have a record in swimming. But Jim predicted it and we trained really hard. As we were getting closer [to shore], I knew it was going to be close. The time difference was basically a couple pee breaks.”

Dan Simonelli completed the unprecedented Santa Barbara Island Hopper Swim. a stage swim that included a 5.8 km crossing from San Miguel Island to Santa Rosa Island in 2 hours 30 minutes, a 9.7 km crossing from Santa Rosa Island to Santa Cruz Island in 4 hours 5 minutes, and then a 9 km inter-island swim from Santa Cruz Island to Anacapa Island in 2 hours 15 minutes. He eloquently summarized what many channel swimmers experienced. “I got a full spectrum of experiences. It was both amazing and miserable. It was also really special for me because I was escorted by Dawn Brooke. It was the perfect crew that faced a lot of unknowns. But this team was so solid. I never thought about what was happening on the boat. Not even once. Each swim was memorable. Having my crew on my swim was the best part of it.”

Linda Simons who swam from Anacapa Island to mainland 6 hours 9 minutes said, “This was my first major channel swim. After a summer of open water swims, I did a 6-mile swim [in Santa Barbara]. My husband kayaked for me – and I had a lot of little things done [by others] to make it possible.”

The banquet also honored four ratified relay swims:

* Sea Change Prep Zombies A (including Faith Irvine, John Allcock, Dave Dawson, Dana Salles, Dan Simonelli, and Cheryl Allock) and Sea Change Prep Zombies B (JJ Qian, Noah Rowan, Aidan Sogorka, Penny Nagel, Zach Irvine, and Otto Lana) who completed the first Santa Rosa-to-mainland relay finishing in 17 hours 11 minutes 35 seconds.

* Selkie & the Sirens (Louise Darlington, Michelle Premeaux McConica, Claudia Rose, Carol-lynn Swol, Diana Corbin and Jeannie Zappe) who completed a 54-mile relay circumnavigation of Santa Cruz Island in 39 hours 58 minutes.

* Anacapa Express (Tom Ball, Jim McConica, Karina Garcia, Zach Jirkovsky, Bryant Lum, and Mike Shaffer) from Anacapa Island to the mainland in 4 hours 48 minutes 13 seconds to set a new relay record.

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