The Just Keep Swimming Relay Crosses the Catalina Channel

Palos Verdes, CA Aug.31, 2012- In news today, the Catalina Channel crossing by the wonderous open water swim team, “Just Keep Swimming,” ( lead by team captain extraordinaire, Alicia Bartley) was successfully crossed. The team comprised of Alica along with Steve Klein, Pankaj “P.K.” Gauchan, Sherry Winston, Robyn Beresh, and Kate Martin,

The Just Keep Swimming Team 2012
Kate Martin, Steve Klein, Sherry Winston, Pankaj “P.K.” Gauchan, Alicia Bartley Robyn Beresh with Brandon the boy wonder

would prove to be the first channel crossing ever for each of the participants. Under the watchful eyes of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation observers, Don Van Cleve and Vanessa Mesia along with the ship’s captain, Greg Eliott of the Bottom Scratcher, the voyage across the channel was a success but not without it’s challenges.

Though the observers were diligent in their duties of following the stringent swimming protocol as set forth by the Channel Swimming Federation, they made certain that in the process of the swim, all went well. Despite their best efforts, there still was an obstacle that loomed large from the very beginning of the voyage that could have changed the outcome. A significant swell of opposing currents was due in on the day of the swim.The water was rough from the very beginning of the journey. By the time the team, crew and spectators on the boat reached Catalina Island at 11pm on Thursday, everyone on board save the sea seasoned captain, first mates and the observers were all sea sick. Nothing quite captures the experience except a photo of three people heaving over the side of the boat in unison.

The first to swim at exactly 11:15pm was Steve Klein. He swam the perfunctory leg to the shore of Catalina, stood on dry terra ferma gave the signal then dove into the dark wonder of the Pacific Ocean. During the preparation for this epic swim, a few of the team members donated what turned out to be a valuable investment in… “the jelly fish repellant trifecta.” Adequately slathered in the team donation of jelly fish and sea lice repellant, Steve successfully completed the first leg of the journey through the literal ocean of stingers and rough waters.

Steve Klein just before he sets of for the first leg of our swim.

While there are many pieces to the puzzle that make or break a successful open water swim, the person the swimmer relies upon most once he or she is in the middle of the ocean is their trusty kayaker escort. Our channel crossing could not have happened without the help of our cracker jack kayakers, Bob Beresh and Jasmine Kung. The kayaker is the guide that keeps the swimmer on course and offers words of encouragement, support and food for the long distances that need to be achieved. They are also the chief communicator with the ship’s captain and the observers to give updates when needed.

Jasmin Kung

Kayaker, Bob Beresh guiding swimmer Sherry Winston through the channel.

At 12:15am was the start of our second leg with our Nepalese swimmer, P.K. Gauchan, fighting the current, swell, and sea sickness ┬áthat would prove daunting for the first six legs of our swim. The waters churned as kayaker Beresh described ” it’s like being in a washing machine.” Adding more challenges, jelly fish were in full bloom nipping and stinging each swimmer during their pass through the Pacific. Nary a swimmer was spared from the tentacles of the jelly fish. The rest of the swimmers, Sherry, Alicia, Kate and Robyn each had their own heroic tales of adventure and vomit while out on the open waters.

Due to the turbulent waters and dangerous conditions, per the observer notes shared with the swimmers after reaching the shores of Palos Verdes, there had been a serious discussion by Don and Vanessa about cancelling the swim during the sixth leg of our adventure. But mother nature had other plans for these swimmers. As the hours passed, the ocean seemed to become more calm with the rising of the sun. By the 6am on Friday, the waters were more of the rhythmic rollers of a kitty roller coaster than the turbulent swells which all the swimmers had experienced in the dead of night.

At precisely 7am, the ship’s captain, Greg Elliott, stood at the top of the boat and with his trusty bag pipes, performed a solo serenade to the ocean welcoming the new day. The team continued their effort and the energy and excitement increased as we neared closer to the coast of Palos Verdes. Now the question was, which swimmer gets to touch the coast first? Would it be Steve who set us off the night before?

On his final leg, Steve swam faster than his previous two rotations and it looked like he would make it to shore before his hour was up. But it was not to be. With the observers holding fast and punctiliously to the rules, at the end of his hour the next swimmer, P.K.,was sent in to finish the swim. Following the instructions of the observers, the rest of the team was allowed to follow the lead swimmer to shore: always making sure not to reach land first. (As if anyone of us could catch up to and pass P.K.) Though only 500 meters from shore the team still had one more hurdle to overcome before reaching the finish line……a dense forest of kelp. Swimming hard and fast with the kelp acting like tentacles and wrapping around our bodies, we finally made it to the rocky shore and stood above the waterline to signal our observers that indeed the Just Keep Swimming Relay team kicked some serious booty in 13 hours 8 minutes and 18 seconds.