A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away. – Eudora Welty
My friend Rob D is a man of many talents; among them a knack for taking remarkable photographs with relatively low-end equipment (typically, smart-phone cameras). What follows may be a bit self-indulgent; but I thought it worthwhile to collect a sampling of his images (of, um… me) in one place.
One photo in particular, I might even call “iconic.” I can’t remember a picture (of, um… me) that has ever spoken to me so powerfully. From just a few minutes before jump-time for Santa Cruz Island swim last September: Now, going back to the beginning…
2010 – “Freshwater Swimmer” is born
On the shores of Lake Michigan, where it all began. Ohio Street Beach, home of the Big Shoulders 5K.…
Donal is my Irish BFAM and fellow co-founder of the Marathon Swimmers Forum. He’s an English Channel and MIMS soloist known for his stunning photography and authoritative writing about cold-water swimming. We founded our blogs in the same month, literally (February 2010).
Sometime between 2 and 3 in the morning, I had decided to spare everyone another (potentially) 10 hours of needless unpleasantness, and end my swim. I was just waiting for the right time; a convenient excuse. If Mark or Cathy or Rob or Dave had said at some point that night, “Evan, it’s pretty rough out here. Maybe you want to get on the boat and go home?”, I can’t say I’d have insisted on continuing.
It’s a testament to the loyalty and intestinal fortitude of my crew and observer that I never got that chance. Three hours later, I was still swimming.
The chop disagreed with my stroke – pounding me randomly, from odd angles, making it impossible to develop any sort of rhythm.
The moonless night completely disoriented me. Shortly after the start we had a snafu with the glowsticks on Mark’s kayak, so it was insufficiently lit. He tried using a camping headlamp, but it was so blindingly bright that it seemed worse than the darkness.
It was a constant battle through the night – especially the first few feeds – to maintain a consistent distance from the boat and kayak. They were getting blown around by the wind; I was getting knocked around by the chop; and I had no depth perception to adjust to it.…
ME: “How does the weather look?”
CAPT. FORREST: “Dogshit.”
He wondered whether perhaps I wanted to postpone the swim to another day. “What are your ‘drop dead’ conditions?” he asked. “It’s blowing 10 knots right here [i.e., in the harbor]. It’ll be worse out there.”
Here lay the dilemma: My crew and observer were here now. Dave and Rob drove down from SLO; Mark from SB (where he has two kids under the age of 3); Cathy from SF. We could, theoretically, delay for 24 hours – Cathy didn’t go home ’til Monday. But it would suck. I had already dragged these people out here in the middle of the night. Now I was going to send them all home (or to a hotel) and say we’ll try again tomorrow?…
There the island sits, tauntingly, every time I wade into the ocean. It dominates the southern horizon - as prominent a feature of the Santa Barbara landscape as chaparral-covered mountains, tile roofs, and beach volleyball. On clear winter days it’s a textured, multi-hued shadow. On hazy summer days it’s just a faint, misty outline. In the depth of June Gloom it disappears from view entirely – but I know it’s there, somewhere.
End-of-year list-making: It’s not just for music aficionados, film buffs, and the New York Times Book Review. Why not open water swimmers, too?
So, here are my 11 favorite open-water “happenings” of 2011 (“happenings” because they’re not all swims).
The list is, admittedly, U.S.-centric – America is where I live and what I pay the closest attention to. While I greatly admire (for example) Nejib Belhedi’s 1400K Swim Across Tunisia, I have no unique insights to add to what others have already said. Perhaps Donal or somebody can make an international list.
The list also reflects my own personal biases. I readily admit, I couldn’t care less about “stunts” in which the promotional efforts are more impressive than the swim itself. Sorry, but I find such things distasteful and think they degrade our sport.…
My Catalina swim has been marinating for more than three months now, so I figured it was time to put this one to bed. Previous posts have covered my star-studded crew, a video, my GPS tracks, and my fear of deep water. Now to the swim itself.
You may have already read Rob’s account, but here it is again for those who missed it.
A Long Swim: View of San Pedro Channel and Catalina Island from Pt. Vicente. The island is barely visible in the distance. The white speck shows my location at 8:06am (an hour before I finished). Photo Credit: Mom
And now, a few words about the CCSF and SBCSA annual banquets (before the memories are too far from mind). Rob already wrote a fairly authoritative recap - to which I don’t have much to add.
(L-R) Anne Cleveland, Marcia Cleveland, and Cindy Cleveland. Photo credit: Paula Selby
Despite the recent surge of interest and participation in open-water swimming, marathon swimmers are still a rare breed – and our efforts are distributed across the globe. It would be unusual for more than a few of them to be in a room at the same time. How often, for example, would you be able to get a picture of the three great Clevelands together? (No relation – see picture at left.)
November 5th at the San Pedro Doubletree (a place I’ve come to know rather well this year!), the CCSF filled a large conference room with marathon swimmers (past and present) and their families.…
No ultra-marathon swim is possible without support – and the selflessness of a marathon swim crew is one of the most beautiful aspects of our sport.
I couldn’t be happier with the motley collection of folks supporting my Catalina swim. The sheer aquatic talent and marathon swimming experience on the Bottom Scratcher this Wednesday night will be something to behold! I’ll be in good hands.
Anne Cleveland (CCSF observer)
- IMSHOF inductee
- double English Channel crossing, 2004
This past week I had the timely opportunity to crew (as a pace swimmer) for fellow MIMSer Cliff Crozier on his Catalina Channel crossing. Timely because my own Catalina swim is scheduled for exactly a week after Cliff’s (August 24-25). A chance to help a fellow marathon swimmer, and also conduct a “dry run” for my own swim a week later? Where do I sign up?
Kevin the Kayaker at Doctor's Cove
It was a valuable experience. Unlike Tampa or MIMS (my two other big swims this year), Catalina is a full-blown channel swim – in the open ocean, with volatile, unpredictable conditions; in 3,000 feet of water that’s home to all manner of marine life, including white sharks. Catalina swims also generally take place in the middle of the night – starting around midnight and finishing mid- to late-morning. …
This one shouldn’t even be a contest, folks. But go vote for him anyway – he deserves it. He makes a compelling case here, but I’ll add to it: Rob is one-of-a-kind. A true original, and a charismatic ambassador for the sport. He’s got an outsized personality (and beard), yet remains incredibly good-natured and humble.
I’m back in Chicago after a salubrious fortnight in Southern California – a week with my in-laws in San Diego followed by a week with my folks in Goleta/Santa Barbara.
It was unseasonably rainy and, when sunny, unseasonably cool, but I didn’t mind. The stretch of south-facing coast between Point Conception and Ventura – with Santa Barbara at the center – is my favorite place in the world. Even the worst weather rarely precludes enjoyment of its blessed terrain.
Los Baños del Mar Pool in Santa Barbara, where I swam somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles as a teenager.
With holiday pool closures, schedule changes, and polluted ocean waters, finding a place to swim was an often frustrating quest. In San Diego I swam twice with UCSD Masters and once at the YMCA near my in-laws’ place.…
Despite my best efforts, the 2010 open-water season is now over! Like Rob, my original plan was relatively modest compared to the end result (though it seemed ambitious at the time). At first, I aimed to run the gauntlet of USMS open-water national championship series – North Carolina, California, Colorado, Virginia, and Indiana – and finish off the season at Big Shoulders in Chicago.
As the year wore on, I found excuses – one by one – to add more events. For the Nike Swim Miami, it was an excuse to visit an old college roommate. For the Cascade Lakes Festival, I got to meet up with my parents and visit my grandmother. For Madison, the drive from Chicago was too short to pass up.…
Official write-up here.
Rob Aquatics write-up here.
What the gods giveth, they can – and do – taketh away. This is Chicago, people!
Big Shoulders ’09 was a picture-perfect beach day, with calm 73-degree water. This year, the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine blew through, giving us clouds, rain, wind, and choppy, cold water (62-63 degress F).
It’s all in the game, though, right? Open-water swimming isn’t supposed to be predictable – that’s what pools are for! Maybe you get a beach day, or maybe you get a storm. Maybe the water is calm and comfortable, or maybe it’s churning and cold. The more you can suck it up and say, “I don’t care. It’s the same water for everyone” – the more successful you’ll be.…