Learning How To Swim At 30 - The Magic Of Myrtle

Learning How To Swim At 30 – The Magic Of Myrtle

Myrtle Huddleston was an American open water swimmer who learned how to swim late in life, at the age of 30 in 1926, and then continued on to a remarkable marathon swimming career.

The media was occasionally brutal in its description of the 240 lb. (109 kg) mother of one, but Huddleston earned prize money along the way as she traveled the world on her newly found skill. Her swimming style was fairly proficient with a balanced stroke, constant kick and good body position. But it was her endurance and stamina and ability to withstand all types of conditions that astounded those who witnessed her accomplishments.

Les than one year after she took her first swimming lesson, she entered the Wrigley Ocean Marathon in January 1927 and lasted 7 hours in the Pacific Ocean.

Frustrated by her inability to finish the Catalina Channel race, she remained in California and vowed to finish what she started. Within a month, she became the third person in history to swim across the Catalina Channel. Her 20+ mile swim from Avalon Beach on Santa Catalina Island to San Pedro on the California mainland took 20 hours 42 minutes on 5 February 1927.

In 1928, Huddleston won an ocean swimming championship at Del Ray Beach, Florida in 1928 when she swam for 31 hours 18 minutes. She also swam non-stop for 50 hours 10 minutes in May 1928 in a Chicago pool, breaking the world record by 4 hours 10 minutes of Otto Kemmerich of Germany. Her swim was observed by 12 officials for which she won US$5,000.

She attempted an English Channel swim in 1929 that lasted 21 hours. A video of her attempt is shown here, courtesy of British Pathé.

At the age of 34, she swam 22 hours 53 minutes, winning US$700 in August 1931 for becoming the first person to swim across the width of Lake Tahoe, a distance of 10.48 miles from Deadman’s Point in Nevada to Tahoe City. During her swim, she became separated from her escort and was lost for several hours before being reunited with her crew and finishing “the toughest swim of her career.”

Earlier that year, she became the world’s champion female endurance swimmer when her marathon swim in a Coney Island pool lasted 60 hours 2 minutes. She later broke her record by staying afloat for 87 hours 48 minutes in April 1931.

Dial forward to contemporary times and Karen Rogers and Jamie Patrick are honoring her legacy with a new Lake Tahoe swim, called the Myrtle Huddleston Honorary Swim, scheduled for August 17th 2013.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones