Tough As Nails Across The Catalina Channel

Tough As Nails Across The Catalina Channel

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When people say women who do open water swimming are tough as nails, they are not exaggerating.

Yet these women often possess a humble softness about them, a genuine sweetness. They know their unique talents and innate toughness are no match for Mother Nature.

Katie Rowe [shown above in one of her television commercials playing the tough pillow-wielding Helga] is one such woman.

The athletic waterwoman and stunt woman from Long Beach, California will join Samantha Sears, Doug Garland, Wil Diaz, Peter Knapp, and Michael Kirkpatrick (with Marrissa Carrillo) in a Catalina Channel crossing on Saturday night.

Called the Swim Long Beach Catalina Relay, the team is coached by Hank Wise with paddlers Mike Alger, Adrian Straight and Kazu Miyahara under the direction of Captain John Pittman, observer Neil van der Byl and assistant observer Andrew Wortman.

The peak high tide is at 7:50 pm, so we will start at 9:30 pm if the wind cooperates, right below the San Vicente Lighthouse Area: 9:30pm if wind cooperates. We hope to finish at Doctor’s Cove sometime between 5:30 to 6:00 am. Our goal time from the mainland to Catalina is somewhere between 8 and 8.5 hours,” explains Coach Wise. He told the relay members, “If you are going to ‘feed’, bring whatever you plan to drink for 10 seconds. We will use a hand-off technique as you stay horizontal.”

Coach Wise also advises his athletes on how best to handle rough water conditions, “Roll with your hands at shoulder width and wide. Breathe out, don’t panic and try and go the same speed as swimmer you are taking over from. Find your groove. Stay calm if the water is choppy and go with it. Relax and groove.”

Coach Wise gives time signals during the one-hour legs at night with his flashlight. “Every 15 minutes, I flash a flashlight several times up and down. With 2 minutes remaining on each leg, I will do crazy waving flashlight. When their time is up, we give a loud whistle. The swimmers touch the previous swimmer’s leg that is raised out of water so the observer sees. They overtake to the outside of the current swimmer so they can easily drop back to boat. After the leg touch is confirm with the observer, they have to quickly get to swim step [to board the escort boat]. If you swim at a 1:19 per 100-yard pace, you will swim 2.6 miles per hour.”  Catalina Channel Relay Top 10 Times – Mainland to Catalina:

1. Long Beach Swim Focus (2011) 6 hours 53 minutes
2. Top Guns (1997) 7 hours 16 minutes and 7 hours 30 minutes (two-way crossing MCM)
3. Team 252 (1996) 7hours 19 minutes and 8 hours 11 minutes (two-way crossing MCM)
4. Pomona Pitzer (1994) 8 hours 27 minutes
5. Disorganized (1998) 8 hours 40 minutes
6. Confused (1998) 8 hours 40 minutes
7. RBAC Masters (2006) 10 hours 7 minutes
8. Coronado “Over-The-Hill Gang” (1993) 11 hours 1 minute
9. Bundaless de Curitiba e La Jolla, Women (1993) 11 hours 34 minutes
10. Bundaless de Curitiba e La Jolla, Men (1993) 11 hours 34 minutes

Catalina Channel Relay Top 10 Times – Catalina to Mainland:

1. U.S. National Team (1989) 7 hours 2 minutes
2. Lakewood Aquatics (1995) 7 hours 4 minutes
3. Mira Costa High School (1995) 7 hours 4 minutes
4. Surfside Swim Team (1995) 7 hours 4 minutes
5. Mission Viejo Nadadores (2009) 7 hours 51 minutes
6. Aquaboomers (2011) 8 hours 8 minutes
7. Mission Viejo Nadadores (2010) 8 hours 9 minutes
8. International Relay (1984) 8 hours 14 minutes
9. Colorado Relay (1984) 8 hours 28 minutes
10. Santa Monica Masters (1981) 8 hours 59 minutes

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones