Team 33.5 Miles Across the Sea lived up to their name, swimming 33.5 miles and into the record books by crossing the Catalina Channel to Laguna Beach just after 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. A crowd of about 50 welcomers was distinct among the throngs of sun bathers that crowded Main Beach. They stood in a pack tooting air horns, shouting and clapping; one held a sign that said “We love you, Daddy.”
Tom Hale was the first out of the toasty 74-degree water, ignoring the crowd to run and tap the lifeguard tower and back again to declare the swim officially over before embracing friends and family. The other swimmers and kayakers who accompanied the relay team followed quickly behind Hale, grinning and hugging the well-wishers.
Team Halestorm, the nickname given to the relay team by a cadre of the Laguna Beach open water swimmers known as the Oak Streakers, consisted of swimmers Hale, his daughter daughter Faith, Roddy Teeple, Patsee Ober, Brett Rose and Lynn Kubasek and support kayakers Eric Zuziak, Rich Selin and Jamie Glazer, all Laguna locals.
A 9 p.m. departure planned from Long Point on Catalina Island Friday,
Aug. 7 was moved up two hours on the advice of John Pittman, captain of the support vessel, The Outrider, who was gauging the currents.
“A lot of adjustments were made” to the itinerary, which Hale had been planning for months. The team conservatively aimed to make the crossing in 24 hours, but arrived on Main Beach in 19 hours and 44 minutes, beating their secret undisclosed goal of 20 hours. “We said 24 hours because there were no records to go by,” said Hale.
“At midnight the water temperature was warmer than the air temperature,” said Hale, noting that swimmers set out without moonlight, having only the green light of four glow sticks on the kayak paddling along side. In the darkness, “you have no bearings; you don’t know how fast you’re swimming,” said Hale. “It could be 1 mile an hour or 3.5 miles per hour.”
By morning the swimmers were considering a landing at Shaw’s Cove to avoid a conflict with an outrigger canoe race making its way to Newport Beach. But after what Hale called a “gnarly start” they followed a straight trajectory to Main Beach and made great time. Their progress was followed
by fans in Australia, New Zealand and England, according to Hale, who was interviewed Sunday on the “Coast Highway Shuffle” radio show hosted by Steve Reid on Laguna’s FM station KX 93.5.
Despite the jellyfish stings suffered by Tom Hale, Ober and Teeple, Hale described the relay as “a Laguna accomplishment.”
Their feat has already been posted by the website Openwaterpedia and soon will be listed in the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation record book as the first team to complete a successful crossing from Catalina Island to Laguna Beach. And in another first, Faith Hale is the first female lifeguard to make the crossing.