Braving a Catalina Crossing

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Tom Hale aims to swim from Avalon on Catalina Island to Laguna Beach next month alongside his daughter Faith, gaining a little recognition for his adopted hometown and accomplishing an unusual father-daughter feat.

Hale and his daughter call the their relay team 33.5 Miles Across the Sea. Other members are Roddy Teeple, an investment banker by day; Patsee Ober, an underwater photographer and Sawdust artist; Brett Rose, who sells sports apparel; and Lynn Kubasek, a veteran swimmer.

Members of the 33.5 channel team before their night workout, from left, Brett Rose, Lynn Kubasek, Thomas Hale and Roddy Teeple. Not pictured: Faith Hale and  Patsee Ober. Photo by Mitch Ridder.
Members of the 33.5 channel team before their night workout, from left, Brett Rose, Lynn Kubasek, Thomas Hale and Roddy Teeple. Not pictured: Faith Hale and Patsee Ober. Photo by Mitch Ridder.

If they are successful, Faith Hale believes she will be the first female lifeguard to cross the channel from Catalina to Laguna Beach. It’s unclear if another relay team has taken the same route since the Catalina Channel Swim Federation recognizes all Catalina-mainland swims the same regardless of the route, according to marathonswimmers.org. Since 1927, just 321 individual swimmers have reached the mainland under their own power, a 20 mile span at its shortest distance, according to records on the federation’s website. Since 1985, 24 relays also accomplished the feat, including the six-member B2K2JA that completed a crossing last September.

Among the 33.5 Mile team, only Kubasek has undertaken a similar challenge. She swam in a 24-mile relay from Santa Barbara Island to Catalina as a benefit for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center last year.

Tom Hale swims without a wetsuit six days a week with an experienced group of open water marathon swimmers, the Oak Streakers, from Shaw’s Cove to Emerald Bay or Main Beach.

Recently the team began Wednesday night swims to acclimate to swimming in the “pitch black,” says Hale, who relishes the experience where he sees bioluminescent plankton that gives off a green glow when something moves through the water.

Ober, who began swimming in Newport Bay at the age of 3, says night swimming has a special beauty.

For Rose, who also competes in triathlons, an open water crossing and night swimming are novel encounters. He calls night swimming with blinkers and glow sticks “spooky.”

“I try not to look down,” he adds. He focuses on visible landmarks, such as two lights shining from Las Brisas Restaurant that can be seen from Oak Street. They line up with the buoy offshore Main Beach. On the way back, the lights from the Deck and Cliff restaurants serve as guideposts to Brooks Street. He knows he’s arrived at Oak Street when he spots “the really nice house with a big screen TV.”

The swimmers will travel to Catalina Island on Aug. 7 aboard the 51-foot Outrider, a fishing boat also outfitted for swimmers. Hale’s company, Hale Global Capitol Group, has chartered the boat, captained by John Pittman. He and his crew have navigated over 150 swims across the Catalina Channel. Also on board are certified observers Catherine Coy and Dan Simonelli, who will ensure that federation rules are strictly observed while keeping an eye out for native predators and oncoming boat traffic. Mid-channel, the swimmers must traverse a four-mile wide shipping lane for merchant vessels heading to San Pedro and Los Angeles harbors.

The rules mandate that swimmers may not wear wetsuits or use any flotation devices or even touch so much as a buoy. They may grease their bodies and use ear and nose plugs and the order of the relay team swimmers must remain unchanged.

Jamie Glazer, Elizabeth Hale, Thurston Middle School science teacher Rich Selin and Hale will take turns kayaking alongside the swimmers in case one needs to be pulled from the water.

Faith Hale, who has been a lifeguard for three years, will serve as the group’s EMT. She has swum in seven long distance events, including one around Alcatraz in the cold San Francisco Bay, since her family moved from Scottsdale, Ariz., four years ago. “If we’re successful, we’ll be the first daddy-daughter team to make this crossing,” she said.

The team will leave Avalon at 9:30 p.m. and swim all night in one to two hour shifts in the water, which reaches its peak average temperature in August at about 65 degrees, hopefully arriving at Main Beach the following night. The Outrider will stay 100 to 200 yards from the kayaks. While the distance from Avalon to Main Beach is 33.5 miles, the team may log closer to 42 miles as they typically swim in arcs to counteract the currents, says Hale. The observers also monitor the currents.

Hale says that he’s gathering financial sponsors for the trip, Wells Fargo among them, and intends to donate some proceeds to Schoolpower and the Laguna lifeguard department.

Local radio station KX 93.5 will provide updates of the trip’s progress as it happens, phoned in from the boat and broadcast live on air, said Monica Silva, the station’s development director. Host Steve Reid will also interview Hale on his Sunday show, “Coast Shuffle,” before and after the event.

Regardless of the outcome, Faith is off to the University of San Francisco in the fall and Rose thinks night swimming will become part of his weekly routine.

Kubasek predicts, “I think we have a pretty good chance if we don’t hit really strong currents.”

 

 

 

 

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