6 Swimmers Overcome Sharks, Jellyfish To Become First In 70-Mile Swim Across Channel
A group of six swimmers from Ventura swam across the channel from San Nicolas Island to San Pedro, making them the first group to ever successfully make this 70-mile swim. The swimmers call themselves the Deep Enders of the Buenaventura Swim Club, and they're made up of Zach Jirkovsky, 34; Tamie Stewart, 42; Jim McConica, 64; John Chung, 45; Stacey Warmuth, 59; and Tom Ball, 55. They paid $12,000 for the experience and had to ask the U.S. Navy for permission to begin the swim on San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Ventura County, the New York Times reports.
The swim was what's called a "sanctioned open-water swim," in which each swimmer takes one hour in the water alongside a kayak and a support boat for safety. In order for the swim to qualify, the swimmers must remain in their relay order until the entire mission is complete. If a swimmer gives up, the whole team is out.
Jirkovsky took the first leg beginning early on Monday morning. The group encountered a massive, seven-foot swell near Santa Barbara Island which really slowed them down, and the new moon meant it was quite dark after the sun went down.
"All of us have swum in the middle of the night before, but it had never been quite this dark," Warmuth said.
They also encountered sharks and jellyfish along the way, the latter of which stung them several times, as they were not allowed to wear wet suits or rash guards during the swim. McConica almost had to be pulled into the nearby boat due to a tailing shark—which would have disqualified them—but luckily, the shark did not come any closer.
Finally, come Tuesday morning, swimmers found the current behind them, pushing them forward. "I was just gliding across the water. It was very fluid, the water was warm and glassy," Warmuth said.
The group was able to swim together, in a V formation for 'victory,' to Palos Verdes Peninsula at 4:52 p.m.
The total trip took 33 hours, 37 minutes and 26 seconds.
"This is a team of people from the same community who went out and achieved something that's never been done, and I think that's very special," Ball said.