Carly Miller - Santa Monica Bay
Point Dume (Malibu) to Rocky Point (Palos Verdes)
43.2 km (26.8 miles)
14 hours, 58 minutes on 21-22 September 2021
Observed and documented by Krista Anderson
- Name: Carly Miller
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 43
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Los Angeles, California
- Krista Anderson (Trained and Observed for the CCSF, observed 2 Redondo Beach to LAX MSF swims)
- John York (CCSF board member and observer)
|Pacific Star||dive boat||22nd St Landing, San Pedro|
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (Sporti), single cap, goggles, ear plugs.
- Body of Water: Pacific Ocean
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Pirate’s Cove (west edge of Point Dume) (34.000874, -118.807941)
- Finish Location: Rocky Point, near SS Dominator shipwreck (north edge of Lunada Bay) (33.773923, -118.428351)
- Minimum Route Distance: 43.2 km (26.8 miles) (map)
Clarification of Start and Finish
CLARIFICATION OF START SND FINISH FOR CARLY MILLER’S SANTA MONICA BAY CROSSING
Pirate’s Cove, Point Dume, CA 34.000874, -118.07941
For the start, we had an observer on the cliffside with a walkie talkie, camera and binoculars. There were 2 kayakers in the water and companion swimmer, Amy Gubser swam onto shore with Carly. The boat remained 1/3 of a mile off shore due to strong swells, wind and rocks. It was clear enough for the observers on board to see the start with the naked eye as Carly stepped into the water and dropped her arms.
Rocky Point, Palos Verdes, CA 33.772427, -118.4262496
For the finish, we had the observer on the rocks at the beach with walkie talkie and camera. There was another witness on the cliffs with a camera as well. There were 2 kayakers in the water. They had to stay outside the surf line as there were strong swells. The boat was about 1/3 to 1/2 mile off shore due to kelp beds, swells, and rocks. The finish was recorded by video and camera on shore, called out via walkie talkie to observers on the boat.
The swells pushing up the rocks were very strong with some larger sets coming through. Because the water was quickly surging up and receding with force, had she tried to get any closer to shore, she would have been swept around on sharp rocks in less than 6” of water. With the strong current, swells and incoming surf, this was deemed unsafe.
Companion swimmer, Amy Gubser instructed Jim Grande to demonstrate to Carly what she needed to do. There was a flat rock out of the swells for her to climb up on. She was to stand and put her hands up. Jim demonstrated this to Carly and after some battle with the strong surf, Carly was able to get up and stand on the flat rock.
All of this can be witnessed in the video and photos of her finish.
LongSwimsDB: Santa Monica Bay.
- Start: 21 September 2021, 18:53:14 (Pacific Daylight, America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
- Finish: 22 September 2021, 09:52:01
- Elapsed: 14 hours, 58 minutes, 47 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||65||68-69|
|Air Temp (F)||62||73|
Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: See observer log.
by Carly Miller
Since I first started marathon swimming in 2017, all of the swims that I choose to do are emotionally significant to me for some reason and are dedicated to certain people. I consider the Santa Monica Bay to be my home water and I have swum almost every portion of the coastline from Malibu to PV over the last few years. So it only made sense to do the whole thing.
Amy Gubser told me about the swim in 2019 standing on the sand in Redondo, as she had completed it only a few months prior, I believe. As I was new to marathon swimming, I wasn’t aware that swimming the entire bay was a thing. At the time, I had just finished Catalina and was focused on completing my California Triple Crown. But, I literally knew at that moment that after I did finish my CA Triple, the bay was going to be my next swim. I really looked up to Amy and I thought it was incredible that someone swam the entire width of the bay. I knew I wanted to do it then, so it was a dream in the making for about 2 years.
Soon after, I went to Long Swims Database and realized that Amy was only the third person to have swum the width of the bay, after Jen Schumacher and Forrest Nelson. (Jen’s Mom Barb had kayaked my Catalina swim and this seemed like yet another sign.) I thought it would be so cool to do a swim that only a few people had done, especially those 3 swimmers in particular, but I also knew that 27 miles was a long swim and that I had work to do if I wanted to get there.
At some point in 2020 while training for Tahoe, I asked Amy if she thought I could do the swim and, if so, would she crew for me. She said yes to both. After my 2020 season ended, I moved forward with looking at boat options for a September 2021 crossing and secured the Pacific Star for Sept 21-22, 2021. (While I did also consider a smaller, private boat that Amy recommended, I ultimately decided that the big boat was better for my crew’s comfort.)
For this swim, I knew having the best, most experienced crew would be key. Amy was on board and I immediately booked Dan Simonelli and my own kayaker and friend Danny Piper. Because I anticipated this being quite a long swim (16-20 hours), I also ended up bringing Barb Schumacher on board as a 3rd kayaker. Amy would support swim for me but also lead the crew on the boat during the swim with any troubleshooting; this I knew. Other crew members who I would ultimately bring on board leading up to the swim in 2021 included Matthew Gerbasi (husband/crew), Cat Moore (land crew; start/finish observer), Linda Simons (support swimmer/crew), Jim Grande (support swimmer), Krista Anderson (observer) and John York (observer).
Planning for the swim meant securing the date, boat, crew, but also training. While I trained, I tested new feed products and thought a lot about what I wanted to change with feeds moving forward, since I’d been sick on all 3 of my big 2020 swims. My training really was intense in June, July and August and I did a lot of long back to back swims (6 hr/6 hr, 6 hr/4 hr, 6 hr/4 hr), a 7 and a 9 hour swim, lots of big volume weeks (30-40 mi).
In the weeks leading up to the swim, I locked in the remaining crew, wrote up a swim plan, honed in on what I wanted to do for feeds and went to scout the start and finish points. I spoke to Amy, Forrest and Abby Bergman, who had all swum the route before.
(There is a separate swim plan document that can be provided if desired that discusses the plan for the actual swim in detail.)
In my opinion, the swim went well, generally. It was faster than anticipated, coming in just under 15 hours. But, there were definitely some challenges that we knew could be challenges depending on weather and conditions.
As we were making our way up from San Pedro to northern Malibu on the boat, each time I went up from the bunk where I was resting to use the bathroom, I would look at increasingly choppy water. I knew it was windy. And I knew the conditions would be challenging.
When we got up to Point Dume, I began to prepare to get into the water as the boat crew got the kayaks launched. I put on my cap, goggles, ear plugs, and began having Matthew grease my body. Soon, it was time to get into the water. I knew it could be rough up there, but let’s just say the water was moving and it was animated. Amy dove off the boat first and I followed her, jumped in and began swimming into the shore at Pirate’s Cove. After dealing with a few big waves, I was able to exit the water. I did get tossed onto a rock by the surf, but I did not injure or cut myself.
After Amy and I both exited the water, I collected myself, exchanged a few words with Amy and she gave me a high five and some encouraging words. I heard Cat shout from the cliff above. I did some arm stretches. I turned to look at Cat (my land crew) on the cliffs above to begin my 3 arm swings, which was the previously agreed upon signal for the start of the swim. I did my 3 arm swings and began walking into the water.
My mind was racing as the swim began and for the next hour or so, it was a struggle to figure out the positioning of myself as the swimmer, the kayakers and the boat. I breathe mainly left and was sandwiched in between the boat and the kayaks, but felt like I was too close, unsafely close, to the boat in a swell of that size. I made a comment to my kayaker Danny at one point and then I could see the boat slowly beginning to reposition.
Soon after the start, Amy exited the water. An hour into the swim, Dan Simonelli and his kayak exited the water leaving the remainder of the first shift to Danny. Still, my mind was racing and it wasn’t soon after that I realized my shoulder was starting to hurt. I took my first feed an hour in and kept moving but I think it was at the second feed that I requested the prescription NSAID Meloxicam. My shoulder never hurts this early and I was concerned. I thought it best to nip it in the bud.
Soon after taking the Meloxicam, my shoulder pain began to settle, but I could also tell that I was getting increasingly nauseous. I asked for a Zofran. I remember feeling embarrassed or angry with myself for needing these medications so early on. But again, that’s why I brought them. So I took what I needed. Maybe an hour later I asked for a support swimmer and Linda Simons soon joined me in the water for an hour.
For the next 8-9 hours, I had a very strong desire/urge to quit. I didn’t want to be there. Didn’t think I could swim for 20 hours and the conditions were getting even worse. It felt like the swell was building. I knew I was being pushed in the right direction so I tried not to get agitated. Agitation with conditions is something that I’ve experienced on previous swims and I’ve been working on my mental game to cut down on that. Even though I was having all kinds of doubts and negative thoughts, I just kept swimming. And even though I wanted to quit, I didn’t. When it got really hard, I tried to remember those I was there honoring.
While the Zofran definitely did help, I would continue to battle stomach issues, including nausea and vomiting, for the remainder of the swim. My nausea was so bad that I didn’t want to consume anything other than water. It seemed like soon after, Amy got a feed concoction dialed in that worked to stay down and keep me going - tea, honey and electrolytes. At the time, I didn’t know what I was consuming but I was told that Amy was coming up with some things for me to try and I trusted Amy implicitly so was willing to try anything she gave me. It was warm liquid and was going down ok. I was still nauseous but it wasn’t getting worse so I kept swimming.
During the first few hours, the swell was big. Several times I saw waves crash over Danny’s shoulder and thought he would capsize. I thought it would settle down eventually but that time still seemed far away. A little after 4 hours, Danny was gone and Barb was paddling next to me. Even though I was hurting, I remember Barb saying all the right things at my feeds. She knew I wasn’t feeling well and was working through some things, but told me to just keep going. (I think I always feel slightly more empathy from females than males in these situations.) Whatever it was, I pushed through until a little past hour 8 with Barb in the water and I felt comforted by her presence.
At this time, I knew it was around 3 am and Dan Simonelli would be getting in the water soon and that if I could continue swimming, gray light and dawn would also soon be coming. Even though I still wanted to quit, I just kept telling myself to keep going and reminding myself why I was there, who I was honoring. And I knew that my level of suffering in that moment was not greater than theirs. I held it together and tried not to complain.
My nausea continued, but I kept most of the warm feeds down and sometimes requested extra water in between. I was aware my feeds were taking forever, but it wasn’t necessarily the liquid consumption that was taking a long time. Urinating was taking longer than it ever had before. I had the strong sensation to urinate, but getting it flowing was difficult. I know how important peeing is and I didn’t want my crew or observers to become concerned that I wasn’t peeing, so I took the time I needed to do so, usually at the end of each feed before starting to swim again. It was frustrating to both myself and I think my crew as well.
Dan commented to me at one point to try and cut down on my feed times; I replied that I was doing the best I could. Urinating and doing something like chewing an Alka-Seltzer chew were the most time-consuming. Regardless, I knew I had to pee and the chews were helping my nausea and heartburn. I asked for Amy to get in to swim with me. At this point, I just knew I needed the mental boost or company and I believe she swam with me until about 6:30.
By this time, the sun was starting to rise and soon, it would be fully up. I could feel the air and water warming. I struggled with my own body temperature more so on this swim than ever before. I think that was simply due to taking in such little nutrition. While I felt cold during most of the swim, I knew I was not hypothermic and my brain was functioning as normally as possible at this point. I was uncomfortable, but not in danger.
The next time I stopped to feed, Dan asked if I wanted a status as far as remaining distance. I had promised myself I wouldn’t ask how far to go until 15 or 16 hours. I glanced down at my watch and saw that I was only at about 11.5 hours in. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the information because in my mind, I thought I had another 8 hours. But, I also knew that Dan Simonelli would never be offering me this information if it wasn’t positive info. He told me that in about 2 hours, I would be in the kelp, give or take. I asked him if he was fucking with me. He said it was just an estimate, but that I was closer than I thought. We bumped fists and I continued to swim. I knew his shift would be ending soon but that I’d see him again at the end.
Soon, the sun was fully up and Danny was once again in the kayak next to me. And at a feeding around 7:30 noticed one of my other support swimmers Jim Grande hop into the water. This was perfect timing because I had wanted to ask for him, but would lose my train of thought between feeds and forget to ask when I stopped. I was happy to see Jim in the water. I also wanted to be sure that a full hour had passed between Amy’s exit and Jim’s entry.
I was still battling stomach issues, but knowing I had fewer hours left than expected bolstered my confidence. Also, the sun was out and it was a gorgeous day. I could see PV getting closer, though the point I thought I was swimming to looked very far away still. I decided not to look and just keep swimming. At my next feed, half way through Jim’s hour of support swimming, both Danny and Jim told me how close I was. I remember commenting that the point still looked 800 miles away. Jim immediately told me I was looking at the wrong point. That I’d been looking at Point Vicente when I should’ve really been looking at Rocky Point. Danny said he could see every tree on land and that he could see the 10PV buoy; we were getting close.
At the next feed, Jim exited and Danny told me that as we got closer to land, he would exit and Barb would be back in the kayak because Danny wanted to help me navigate the expected kelp crawl at the end. Soon, Danny was gone and Barb was next to me once again. As we passed the PV buoy, one of the sea lions dove into the water from the buoy and kept swooping very close to me. I heard dolphins a lot during the last few hours of swim, but couldn’t see them, though my crew could.
As I continued to swim, I could see the swimmers on my crew on the deck of the boat - Linda, Amy, Jim and Danny, getting their swim gear on and getting ready to hop in the water. Before I knew it, we were in the kelp. There definitely wasn’t as much kelp as I thought there would be but it was significant. Soon, I could see Cat’s bright shirt standing on Rocky Point. As we got closer, it looked more and more treacherous and I wondered how I would finish the swim safely.
I noticed Danny swimming next to me and knew that Amy, Linda and Jim were also in the water. I also noticed that Dan was back in the water in a kayak and had paddled ahead a bit to scope out the area. Soon, he was back closer to us and we all were getting closer to land. Dan called out for everyone’s attention and directed me to swim toward the bottom point of a concrete wall sitting on Rocky Point. I couldn’t see anything when I put my face in the water and I remember Amy telling me to dog paddle or scull so I could see.
The swell was ebbing and flowing and rocks were hidden and being exposed with the movement of the swell. I soon realized that I was in very shallow water with jagged rocks underneath me. I turned and there was literally a set of 3-5 foot waves coming in, one after the next after the next. I remember thinking how nuts this was as I was getting slammed repeatedly into the jagged rocks. By this time, I could tell I was bleeding and that my legs were cut up. I heard Amy yell at me to just stand up on a rock, but the swell kept coming in and it was challenging to get back to that particular rock. I could see Jim standing on it demonstrating for me what I needed to do, but Jim is like 7 feet tall and I’m 5 feet tall so it’s a bit harder for me to maneuver. Finally, after what seemed like a few minutes, I made my way to the rock and was able to stand up with my hands up over my head for a few seconds. After a few seconds I pushed off the rock to duck under the next wave that was coming crashing in.
Swim was finished. I immediately asked for help as I was bleeding and in pain. I had been slammed into rocks several times, but my shin was very painful and I knew I needed help getting back to the boat. I got a safety buoy wrapped around me with the help of Danny and Linda and Dan dragged me close back closer to the boat, while Danny was also assisting dragging me, kicking with his fins. I was relieved to be finished.
Click to enlarge.