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Tyler Sutton, Carrying On A Family Affair With The Ocean

Tyler Sutton, a 17-year-old whose older brother Ryland is an experienced escort kayaker and whose father Steve has completed numerous marathon swims including a 12 hour 9 minute crossing of the English Channel, recently completed his first channel swim from Anacapa Island to the California mainland.

This is Tyler’s story as told to his social media followers, family, and friends. He answers questions after his recollection of his first channel crossing.

The ocean is my friend. She is there to lift me up and push me forward, but she will make me work for it.

This swim was certainly an experience for me that was brand new. At the start, the sky and water were incredibly beautiful, and the water temperature was a good temperature for me. The swim started off like I was crawling through a field of landmines, so many jellyfish. I dodged and weaved, but was stung by 3 in the first hour, and 3 more later.

Around hour 3, a little seal lion pup was swimming underneath and all around me. It was a very cute sight.

Around hour 4 was where the mental battle begin.

During the swim, I was keeping track of time and the distance that I should be – based of my feeds. I planned to do this swim in 6 hours with a 2 mph pace the whole way, but I quickly discovered that wasn’t going to happen. By the 4-hour mark, I should have been close to an oil rig called Gina, but I was not. 30 minutes later, I heard that the people on the boat saw Gina. I was swimming feed to feed at that point just waiting until I got to Gina. An hour goes by and I begin to see Gina far away.

It’s at the 5-hour mark at this point and I realize my chance of finishing sub-6 hours is almost impossible.

This was tough for me to accept because I was unaware I was swimming against a current. Swimming my all-out just for the oil rig not to move was definitely annoying. I kept swimming, and 2 hours go by before I pass gina. At this point, I had been swimming 7 hours with a head current of 1 mph. Even though my pace was 2 – 2.25 mph, I was only moving 1 – 1.25 mph.

The last 2 hours were with no head current so I was moving at 2 – 2.25 mph. The final time of the swim was 9 hours and 56 minutes.

If I had swam at the same pace for the same amount of time with no current, I would have gone roughly 18 miles. I definitely pushed my body to its fullest limit.

I’m very sore from my arms and shoulders and even wrists, to my legs and ankles. I have also become aware of where I didn’t put desitin zinc because I am sunburned on my lower back. I am so glad I was able to do this swim on the 2-year anniversary of my dad’s Anacapa crossing, with the same crew.

I also wanted to give a special thanks to Captain Dawn Brooks for making the swim happen, and for giving me a super straight tracker line.

Q1. How did you train for Anacapa? What specific pool and ocean workouts did you do?

All my life I was surfing, bodysurfing, playing water polo and swimming. I had my whole life to get used to currents, water temp, and endurance in the water. Our beach days would usually start at roughly 6 am in the morning and go into the afternoon.

Two years ago, during lockdown, I began open water swimming. I swam with an open water swim group, the SoCal ocean swimmers up until a year ago – swimming about 6-8 miles per week. We would swim at Zuma Beach, Ventura Harbor, and Carpentaria Beach.

I was part of a club swim team, called Class Aquatics for roughly 9 months leading up to my swim. The swim team was manly training for high school swim season, but my coach was very understanding of my goal and was able to adjust sets for me. This was the bulk of my training and i usually swam 15-20 km a week. This was my place to fine tune my stroke and speed. I doubled my speed from 1.2 mph to 2 – 2.25 mph.

As far as workouts, they are all in yards and they varied. Warm up was 300 swim, 200 kick. Sets we had were 20 x 25’s, usually split into 5 sets of 4, where there would be 4 different 25’s that would be repeated 5 times. An example of this is 1 x 25 building up speed, 1 x 25 building down, 1 x 25 easy, 1 x 25 sprint. 20 x 50’s freestyle, this was usually for stroke work alternating 8 x 75’s with 8 x 50’s. The 50s would usually be freestyle and the 75’s were either im order; butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke or 1 x 25 swim + 1 x 25 kick + 1 x 25 drill. 3 x 10 x 100s on 1:40 – this is about 2 mph.

My ocean training preparations included dolphining against the current. I slipped on fins and switched between butterfly and freestyle against a very strong current at Zuma Beach, usually on Friday evenings.

I also did four strategic ocean swims including 5 km swims working on technique, 10 km swims that served as a confidence boost and helped me visualize my success with Anacapa, a 15.8 km swim that helped me realize that when I hit a rough spot, if I keep going, it does in fact get better. If I am sore and tired, stretching out and slowing my stroke helped preserve some energy. A 19.6 km swim was in my opinion, the most important swim. This swim prepared me for the unexpected currents during my Anacapa crossing. It was also another confidence boost, proving to myself that I could do Anacapa.

Q2. What kind of dryland training did you do?

I did regular swim training on our Vasa Swim Erg, stretching, and yoga.

Q3. Did you do any visualization or mental training?

I also did visualization/mental training. My four ocean swims were very helpful mental training and also helped me visualize the swim. During those swims, club practice, and during any downtime at home, i was visualizing. I wasn’t falling asleep the night before my swim so I was visualizing the boat ride over. After a quick nap, I was visualizing. I was remembering how I felt during each ocean swim and at different points during the swims. During every pool practice, I was also visualizing my Anacapa experience. I even started using feed bottles as my everyday water bottle and having actual feeds for pool workouts.

Q4. How did all these workouts prepare you for the unexpected as you crossed Anacapa?

These four swims helped me split Anacapa into four quarters. In the ocean, I didn’t have a watch or landmarks to look at, so I took my pace of 2 mph, and a distance of 3 miles, and found each quarter of the swim should only take 1.5 hours. I remembered from my 12-mile ocean swim that the third quarter was the toughest mentally. This was all very important and helpful information for my Anacapa crossing.

The beginning of my Anacapa swim was beautiful everywhere. Thanks to my years of water experience, I was able maneuver around and dodge jellyfish. Also in the past, I’ve been greeted with a gentle polite bump from a sea lion so when I saw one on my swim, I was excited. But the most helpful thing I did was tell people about the swim beforehand and bring friends and family on the boat. This way, I would push myself to finish not only for me, but for everyone else as well. Right before I jumped in, I posted the tracker link, and my family spread it around like wildfire. On top of that, I asked my brother, Ryland Sutton, to go live on Facebook during the swim, this way people were actively following along – so quitting was not an option.

Q5. How did you feel the moment you reached the mainland?

Within the last mile of my Anacapa swim, I began mentally preparing for my exit. The day before, I was joking about hitting the sand and running away. When I was swimming in, I had my brother Ryland clear people away and make sure no one touched me. When I finally hit the beach, I just ran fast to dry sand, began doing jumping jacks, and then sat down. As soon as I sat down, I realized I wouldn’t move unless I got up, so I ran back to the water, and swam to the boat. When I hit the sand initially, I was incredibly relieved my 10-hour journey was over. I was proud I made it. Having a head current of 1 mph for 6.5 – 7 hours was not fun.

Q6. Have you caught the channel swimming bug?

After my 6-mile training swim, I was planning my 9.8-mile swim. The week before my Anacapa crossing, I was planning my next few swims, and during my Anacapa, I was thinking about doing another long beach swim the next week. I think it’s fair to say that I caught the channel swimming bug two years ago when I started and watched my dad swim Anacapa. My main goal for my own Anacapa was to beat his time, so now I have to go around swimming the same swims he has, but aiming for a faster time.

Photos courtesy of Tyler Sutton.

© 2023 Daily News of Open Water Swimming – “to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture beyond the shore

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