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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Celebration Of Significance In Santa Barbara Channel

The Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association held its annual banquet on the same day of the Channel Swimming Association and the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation. As one of the youngest channel organizations on the planet, the Association has been growing significantly in recent years.

"We had years with one swim...but we just had 19 successful channel swims in 25 attempts in 2012," said president Scott Zornig. While the number of open water swimmers, and marathon swimmers in particular, are growing, the growth of the Santa Barbara Channel community is also directly and positively enhanced by the enthusiasm of its volunteers, pilots, paddlers and kayakers who are willingly herded by the infectiously positive Zornig.

With its governance of the 7 California Channel Islands (including Anacapa Islands, San Clemente Island, San Miguel Island, San Nicolas Island, Santa Barbara Island, Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island), the Association had an early pioneer in 1939 when Paul Chotteau attempted to swim from Santa Barbara Island. While the Frenchman gave it a tremendous go, his swim did not serve as a catalyst for many others.

39 years later, the first official successful swim was accomplished by Californian Cindy Cleveland who completed a round trip swim to Anacapa Island in 1978. Subsequent channel swims were accomplished by David Yudovin in 1982 and 1983, and Ashby Harper from Santa Cruz Island in 1984, but the global open water swimming community really took up the call and opportunities provided by the Association in 2012. With the momentum of 15 successful solos and 4 relays out of 25 attempts, the future looks exceedingly bright under the leadership of Scott Zornig.

The 2012 Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association honorees included the following swimmers:

1. Michael Hird (USA) Anacapa 5:48
2. Walter Bean Scott (USA) Anacapa 5:48
3. Cherie Edborg (USA) Anacapa 8:21
4. Tina Neill (USA) San Clemente 28:42 (first)
5. Jim Neitz (USA) Anacapa 8:59
6. Nicholas Vargas (USA) Anacapa 4:58 (record)
7. Zachary Jirkovsky (USA) Anacapa 5:59
8. Evan Morrison (USA) Santa Cruz 9:48 (record)
9. John Chung (USA) Anacapa 7:39
10. Tom Ball (USA) Anacapa 7:39
11. Fiona Goh (USA) Anacapa 10:10
12. Jim McConica (USA) Anacapa 4:38 (record)
13. Jim McConica (USA) Anacapa 5:24
14. Santosh Patil (India) Inter-island 2:13 (record)
15. Cesar Barria (Panama) Anacapa 7:46 (assisted)

Relay swims
1. HTC Relay (Tina Neill, Steve Lowe, Kent Nicholas, Forrest Nelson, Mike Mitchell, Emily Evans) San Clemente 25:48 (record)
2. Team Jessie (Howard Burns, Charle Christensen, Marc Horwitz, Michael Kendall, Alan Baumgardner, Corey Tabor) Anacapa 7:17 (first)
3. Team Augie (Lisa Nordholm, John Stevens, Julian Rusinek, Morgan Empey, Vanessa Mesia, Michael Lane) Anacapa 7:17 (record)
4. Team Coto (Michael Trudeau, Tanya MacLean, Jeffrey Conrad, Ben Putman, Lynn Kubasek, Cherie Edborg) Anacapa 7:17 (record)

At its annual banquet on Saturday night, David Yudovin was the guest speaker. He spoke about how he has maintained a love for the open water from his childhood to his 60's. His passion continued even as he hit his low point when he was diagnosed with leukemia and was told he had 2 more days to live. With his life in the balance, he called his good friend Lynne Cox and set out to become the first person to cross the Tsugaru Channel in Japan. His success in 1990 in Japan renewed him and was the catalyst of his upward trajectory ever since. From his early days of escorting relay swims through celestial navigation to his contemporary swims that are aided with modern tools, he dramatically overcame an early bout with leukemia and maintained his enthusiasm for life through open water swimming.

During the banquet, two California film makers also debuted the trailer of the new movie, DRIVEN. The film is a fascinating glimpse into the world of marathon swimming. The images, shot from underwater, boats and onshore, touched the audience and left them spellbound. During the trailer, the words used rang profoundly true to everyone who has ever done a channel swim:

What does it take to plunge into the darkness? To endure the cold? To face your fears? To chase a dream? What did I get myself into?

Zornig also summarized the history of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association which has seen the following solo and relay successes:

Anacapa Island: 36 successful solo swims and 3 relays. The first swimmer was Cindy Cleveland in 1978. The fastest man was Jim McConica (4:38), the fastest woman was Cara Silvas (5:31).

San Clemente Island: 1 successful solo swim and 2 relays. The first and only swimmer was Tina Neill (28:42).

San Miguel Island: 1 successful solo swim. The first and only swimmer was Penny Palfrey (11:29).

San Nicolas Island has not had any successful solo swims or relays.

Santa Barbara Island: 1 successful solo swim and 2 relays. The first and only swimmer was Penny Palfrey (17:53).

Santa Cruz Island: 9 successful solo swims and 11 successful relays. The first swimmer was David Yudovin in 1983. The fastest man was Evan Morrison (9:48). The fastest woman was Tina Neill (10:32).

Santa Rosa Island: 1 successful solo swim. The first and fastest men was Marc Lewis (15:46).

There have been 4 successful inter-island swims since Scott Zornig did the first one in 2007.

The banquet also showcased three men from an early relay crossing in August 1981. "What I remember most about our swim was that I was scared,” Beau Gatch. “Before I jumped in, I asked my crew, 'You really want me to swim in that black water?" The first Santa Barbara Channel relay was completed in August 1981 from Hazards Cove to Shoreline Park in 11 hours 47 minutes. The members included Beau Gatch, Dr. Herb Barthels, Pam Barthels, Jeff Farrell (co-captain of the USA Olympic Swim Team), Keith Martin, and Steve Snyder. The captain of their tugboat escort California was Mike McCorkle with Jim Isaac serving as their paddler and Vanessa George as their team coordinator.

Mike Mitchell spoke of "pulling a donut" on his HTC Relay crossing. "I swim straight, but I kept on turning into the boat. I couldn't figure it out. It turns out that the boat was pulling a donut with one of its engines out. We had a great team and a great crew. It was an honor."

When Walter Bean Scott and Michael Hird completed their tandem swim under extraordinary conditions. "We felt like studs for a few weeks."

Cherie Edborg said of her first channel swim ever, "I want to thank my mom Beverly. I was not able to train without her help to take care of my two children. I was able to train enough with her help. During my swim, I saw 3 large mola molas. They were beautiful. But the most magical moment was swimming over 30-40 bat sting rays as they moved underneath me."

Zornig described Tina Neill's swim from San Clemente Island to the California coastline as the longest swim in California Channel Island history. "She is super achiever and a really nice person," a comment that had everyone in the banquet room nodding in agreement. "I always want to think everyone who helps me on my swims," said Neill who repeated the words of appreciation of every swimmers at the banquet. "We really cannot do it without them. It is true. We started at 9 pm at night, and it was an uneventful swim," in arguably the understatement of the year.

Jim Neitz did his fourth channel swim and described it as "a great swim on a crappy day. I really want to thank Scott Zorning who is driving this organization."

Nicholas Vargas, who set the Anacapa Channel record earlier in the year, was not present due to a college recruiting trip. But his presence was felt by the community as expectations are high. Zornig described Vargas, "He has potential and he fulfilled it [on his Anacapa swim]. Of course, his record lasted all of 23 days." Among his training sets, he did 22 x 850-yard swims on a 10:15 interval.

His father paddled with him the entire way. His father described his early love of swimming. "When Nicolas was six [years old], I took him surfing. He asked me, 'How many waves do I have to catch?' I told him six since he was 6. After he caught 6, he went swimming. This continued until he was 10. But then he told his mother that he didn’t want to surf anymore. He wanted to swim which helped his self-esteem. His teammates in Ventura have welcomed him with open arms and have been taking him along. This is a great pocket of swimmers in Ventura and they have been so great for him."

Zach Jirkovsky said of his 5:59 Anacapa crossing, “The Ventura group is a very supportive group. I was cold and the water got colder and colder and colder. I saw people onshore and I looked at the boat. My cousin told me, 'If you finish the swim, that’s cool. If you don’t, it will bring shame to the family.' that's pressure. So I had to finish the swim."

Evan Morrison said of his 9 hour 48 minute swim from Santa Cruz Island, "There was nothing that I liked about that swim, but it was an inherently interesting swim. When I was a kid, it was the island that I always looked it when I went to the beach. So it was in my consciousness. And there was a lot in this swim for me. This year, I was inspired about the film project (DRIVEN) and glad that the film makers were along for the ride."

Tom Ball said of their tandem swim with John Chung. "I swim every day with heroes: Jim McConica, Jim Neitz. When you swim with heroes, it is an everyday challenge to rise to the occasion. I swim with brilliant people. It is hard to put it in words; they bring the excellence out in you to swim every day with these people. It is a reaching into your soul. It is hard to describe people who reach into their core and persevere. I am so happy and honored to be a part of this group."

Chung said of his channel swim where a 30-foot whale swam underneath, “I am definitely afraid of sharks. Our boat captain was like the pilot in [the movie] Jaws. When we are training, I want everyone to stick together. But I am glad to be a part of a bunch of great people.”

The young Fiona Goh was inspired to swim after watching the 2008 Olympics. "I was scared and very nervous when I started. To the day, I still cannot believe that I did it. It seems like yesterday when I first started, but now I am ready for the next adventure."

Cesar Barria, who swam in a wetsuit in his assisted channel crossing, but impressed his hosts in Santa Barbara. The disabled swimmer from Panama lost his leg in an accident but completed his first channel swim in California. He wanted to finish in order to set an example of inspiration in Panama.

Jim McConica’s second solo swim in two day across the Anacapa Channel was, remarkably, the fifth fastest time of all time. "My original plan was to swim 8 crossings in 7 days, but everything changed on the first day. The team situation that we have in Ventura is special. We workout together, we do the training sets in the pool together. It was a team effort."

Santosh Patil from India did something that his American hosts had never seen before: he offered a coconut to the ocean gods before his swim between Anacapa Island to Santa Cruz Island. "I look forward to more swims," Patil wrote in gratitude to his new friends in California and at the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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