Kings Of The Catalina Channel

Kings Of The Catalina Channel

Courtesy of WOWSA, Catalina Channel, California.

Two men, two different eras.

One was a young Southern Californian who had grown up in the competitive age-group swimming community and who trained with a legendary group of swimmers including Penny Dean and Cindy Cleveland.

The other is an older attorney who owns two law offices, founded Neri Abogados Asociados with offices in Spain and France, and has been a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico for more than 22 years who has served as the Chief Secretary of the Franco-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

But their paths crossed in the Catalina Channel.


John York of Manhattan Beach, California and Samuel Neri of Mexico City share the title of the King of the Catalina Channel with six career crossings between Santa Catalina Island and the Southern California mainland in the San Pedro Channel.

York, between the ages of 16 and 40, averaged a quick 8 hours 35 minutes on each of his six Catalina Channel crossings, including an incredible 7 hour 41 minute first leg of his two-way crossing in 1978. “This was an incredible feat considering that GPS was not used in that era and he stopped to feed only once every hour.”

John York’s Career Catalina Channel Crossings
* September 1976 (CM) in 8 hours 49 minutes
* October 1977 (CM) in 8 hours 31 minutes
* September 1978 (MCM) in 16 hours 42 minutes (7 hours 41 minutes + 9 hours 0 minutes)
* August 1984 (CM) in 8 hours 54 minutes
* October 2000 (CM) in 8 hours 32 minutes

Samuel Neri’s Career Catalina Channel Crossings
* September 2011 (CM) in 13 hours 44 minutes
* July 2013 (CM) in 12 hours 16 minutes
* October 2014 (MC) in 17 hours 32 minutes
* October 2015 (CM) in 11 hours 55 minutes
* October 2016 (CM) in 11 hours 50 minutes
* June 2017 (CM) in 14 hours 40 minutes

While York is retired and continues to volunteer decade after decade for the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, Neri is still active as a practicing attorney.

But Huntington Beach, California resident Hank Wise also remains active. The 50-some year-old is nipping at the heels of both York and Neri with his most recent fifth career crossing last week in 10 hours 14 minutes.

Top photo by Easy Reader shows York upon his arrival in Palos Verdes, California on his 40th birthday and sixth career crossing. Middle photo shows Neri after his sixth career crossing. Bottom photo shows Wise soon before the start of his fifth career crossing.

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