Brian Foster: The 15-Year-Old Open Water Swimming Prodigy Crosses the Catalina Channel

Brian Foster: The 15-Year-Old Open Water Swimming Prodigy Crosses the Catalina Channel

Brian Foster, a 15-year-old open water swimming prodigy from Kinsale, Cork, Ireland, recently conquered the 20 mile Catalina Channel in 11:03.48 (pending ratification by CCSF), marking a significant milestone in his burgeoning swimming career. Brian, who trains with the renowned Sandycove Island Swimmers, embarked on this crossing between September 5th and 6th, starting from Doctor’s Cove, Catalina Island, and finishing on the mainland.

Brian is not just a member but also a shining star of the Sandycove Island Swimmers, a group well-known for producing accomplished marathon swimmers. The organization itself and seven individuals have been inducted in the Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as honor swimmers and contributors. About 22 members of the Sandycove Island Swimmers have completed the challenging English Channel, with one being Ireland’s first over-and-back Channel swimmer. Brian is not only inspired by his peers but also draws motivation from his father, Steve, an accomplished marathon swimmer who completed the 14.4km Gibraltar Strait swim in 2014.

Brian shared his experience with us:

At 10.51pm, Doctor’s Cove, I entered the water and began my 33.3km swim from Catalina Island to the mainland. The water was full of kelp, and glowing with biolumnescence.

The sea was like glass. As I entered deeper water I could hear the clicking and whistling of Dolphins, and the shadows I could see beneath me could only be the source of the noise. After 60 minutes, the first feed rolled around quickly, and I was feeling strong. I had agreed with my crew to let me know every 5km I swam. I was expecting this update at around 90 minutes, my second feed. At 90 minutes, this update never arrived. At 2 hours, I was disheartened to learn that only then I had covered 5km. The current was mild, and I had to trust my crew, so I put my head down and kept swimming. At 7 hours, the light had arrived and the pace had picked up, I felt strong and the water was still flat calm. Now that it was light out, land was visible, and it took a while for that land to get any bigger. 

About 5km from shore, I was feeling slightly bloated and decided to switch my feeds to just water. I knew I was close and so I wasn’t under pressure to hold down regular feeds. 

Finally, I got the message from my crew that I had less than a mile to go. This was great news, but it felt like the slowest mile I had ever swam, with those cliffs looking the exact same for a long time. When the land finally arrived, I swam through the kelp, standing up when I hit shallow water, and walked up onto dry land, signifying my finish. Dan Simonelli had kayaked the last few hundred meters to shore with me, and it was great to celebrate the finish alongside him. I had a brilliant boat crew, support team Stephanie Hopson and Steven Foster and awesome kayakers Barb Schumacher and Dan Simonelli.


What inspired you to take on this challenge?

Brian Foster: There were many motivating factors to signing up for Catalina. Firstly, it’s iconic, being included in The Triple Crown and the Oceans Seven. Secondly, it’s great preparation for the English Channel, as it’s similar distance with more predictable weather, getting a set date to swim rather than a window. I always enjoyed night swimming, and there was certainly an appeal there also, as I have always enjoyed swimming at night.

Were there any individuals, stories, or experiences that inspired or motivated you throughout your training and the swim itself?

I was inspired by the local marathon swimmers in Cork Ireland. Channel swimmers like Ned Denison, Carol Cashell, Adrian Healy, Rob Bohane, Finbarr Hedderman and many more thay would take me a day to mention. I am surrounded by many marathon swimmers, many of whom have swam the English Channel, Catalina, Manhattan etc. Events like Cork Distance Week, run by chairperson of IMSHOF, Ned Denison. The camp brings Marathon Swimmers from all over, and hearing their stories has always been inspiring.

Photo credits: Steve Foster and Catalina Channel Swimming Federation Facebook