First-time ever: Man swims nonstop for over 51 hours between California coast and Catalina
[Sept. 7, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]
Stève Stievenart has achieved an unprecedented milestone, completing a triple crossing between the California coast and Catalina Island. (CREDIT: Geogarage blog)
In a feat that has taken the world of aquatic sports by storm, French open water swimmer Stève Stievenart, affectionately known as "Stève the Seal," has achieved an unprecedented milestone, completing a triple crossing between the California coast and Catalina Island. Stievenart carved his name in the annals of history with an almost non-stop marathon swim that lasted over 51 grueling hours.
News of the historic event emerged last week when the sports newspaper, L'Equipe, reported that the swim occurred between Tuesday evening and Friday morning. This three-way crossing journey that Stievenart embarked upon was no easy task. The route encompassed a trip from Catalina to the mainland, back to the island, and once again to the mainland. Until now, no individual had ever accomplished this mammoth task.
Stievenart, aged 46, is no stranger to challenges that demand the highest levels of endurance and persistence. His history as an open water swimmer brims with achievements that can leave anyone awestruck. Before this accomplishment, he had already crossed the Catalina Channel, which lies just over 20 miles offshore from the coast of Long Beach in Los Angeles County, twice.
The first was a "one-way" crossing completed in January 2022 and the second, a more demanding "two-way" crossing undertaken in June of the same year. The latter feat required him to swim from the mainland to the island and then back again, a marathon journey that took over 28 hours of unwavering effort.
However, Stievenart's dedication to open water swimming transcends just the Catalina Channel. His other accomplishments include participating in a 75-mile, eight-person relay across Lake Baikal's icy waters in Siberia in 2021.
The lake holds the title of being the world's largest freshwater lake by volume, according to the World Open Water Swimming Association. In the same year, Stievenart also undertook a double circumnavigation of Manhattan, covering approximately 57 miles in 21 hours and 15 minutes during the "40 Bridges" event.
On two separate occasions, he swam across the English Channel, bridging the gap between the United Kingdom and France. These feats earned him the prestigious Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, a coveted marathon swimming challenge consisting of three historically significant routes: the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the circumnavigation of Manhattan.
Stève the seal in preparation of his crossing. (CREDIT: Geogarage blog)
Such physically taxing pursuits require more than just mental and physical strength; they demand a carefully managed diet. Stievenart follows a unique regimen, consuming large quantities of oily fish akin to a seal's diet. This diet helps him build up fat reserves, a critical requirement when one needs to swim for hours in cold water.
The road to this record-breaking feat was not smooth. When undertaking the triple crossing of the Catalina Channel, Stievenart was accompanied by a team of around 15 people, including judges and an assistance crew, who followed him on a boat while he swam. He covered his body with Vaseline to minimize friction and Sudocrem to counter the detrimental effects of saltwater on the skin.
Santa Catalina with the GeoGarage platform (CREDIT: NOAA raster chart)
Despite the preparation, the journey tested him physically and mentally. Persistent back pain plagued him throughout his journey, nearly leading him to abandon his quest after the first crossing. "I'm not going to be able to swim another 20 hours like this," he confessed after completing the initial leg of the journey. Yet, the indefatigable Frenchman persevered and eventually emerged victorious.
Speaking to L'Equipe after his record-breaking swim, Stievenart expressed his joy, saying, "I'm very happy to have completed this three-way. It's a great achievement." Gratitude flowed through his words as he acknowledged the support of his team, emphasizing, "I thank my team, because without them it is obvious that I would never have been able to accomplish this."
A stock image shows Catalina Island, which is off the coast of Southern California. (CREDIT: iStock)
He also shared the tremendous challenges he faced during the final stages of the swim, saying, "The end was really very complicated to manage. It was terrible. My mouth was all swollen, and I couldn't breathe. Not to mention that there was a lot of current during the last kilometer. I drifted, I was afraid of missing the finish line. It was endless. I kept wondering when it was going to stop, I had to constantly adapt."
Stievenart's story of resilience and determination is a testament to the limits of human endurance and potential. Despite the physical toll and mental struggle, he pressed on, drawing strength from within. He encapsulates the essence of what drives him, and possibly many others, in enduring such feats: "It's crazy to see, and that's also what drives me, how the body does so much with so little."
His feat stands as a beacon of inspiration to those who dare to push beyond their limitations, reminding us that seemingly impossible tasks can be achieved when we muster the courage to take the plunge and keep swimming.
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