A Flashback To A Cold Water Marathon Swim

A Flashback To A Cold Water Marathon Swim

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Ted Erikson remembers his first Farallon Islands attempt in 1966.

After ~17 hours and a starting water temperature of 52°F, the water decreased to ~48 °F (9°C), or less as night fell. I sank into a very weird state of oblivion being unable to respond coherently or understand directions from Captain Kinley. Ike Papke was instructed to dive in and retrieve me back on the Mother Ship still flailing my stroke at ~20 strokes per minute.

Wrapped in a blanket, all motion ceased and the nurse, unable to find a pulse, reported me dead. Following return to harbor, I barely became aware of surroundings (Col. Donovan, my contracting officer was unrecognizable). After arriving at hospital an hour later, I requested a warm (not hot!) bath and returned to real life.

I still have flashbacks when I swim in water below 56°F any length of time, although I can still tolerate 32°F for less than 20 seconds, without dying so far on January 1st in Lake Michigan

Ted completed his Farallon Islands swim on September 17th, 1967 in 14 hours 38 minutes by swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge, covering a total of 26.4 nautical miles. This was the last time a solo swimmer successfully completed a Farallon Islands swim.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones