The planning began a year ago. And it started something like this: “Hey Kim, wanna swim the English Channel with me and 4 other guys?”
The ENGLISH CHANNEL?!!! HELL YES!!! The Dolphin Club of San Francisco has more English Channel swimmers than any other club in the world. Solo and relay swims across this challenging stretch of water are practically a rite of passage. This is because swimming the English Channel is no easy feat; a 21 mile swim without a wetsuit… in rough water ranging from 56 – 60 degrees and strong currents… in the busiest shipping channel in the world. My head was filled with rich narratives of adventure, triumph, and even despair. I couldn’t wait to have my own story to share.
On September 18th 2011 we arrived at the Dover Marina where our pilot boat was located. Ken Coren, Jordan Wood, Vic Pizarro, Joe Omran, Mike Silva and myself. No uniforms, no team colors, no formal training, no coaches and no egos; an unlikely and eclectic team of swimmers brought together by our love for the water and our collective hunger for adventure.
We were “The 502 Jefferson Tideriders.”
Our swim was not easy. At one point we were going so far north I jokingly asked if anyone spoke Dutch, because the strong currents were pushing us towards The Netherlands. We all laughed but knew we needed to make it to France for it to count as an official English Channel swim. Six hours later as the strong currents changed so did the direction of our swim. It seemed as if we were now headed towards Portugal and none of us spoke Portuguese.
Every single person (swimmer, boat pilot and crew) gave it everything, and more. No one gave up.
In fact there were countless moments along the way when we thought our swim was over. I remember fishing off the back of the boat with Jordan. Yes, fishing. Who goes FISHING during a relay swim??!! I guess we just didn’t want to come back empty-handed. Even if it meant we returned only with a bucket full of mackerel. We wanted to make the most of our adventure. Completing the swim was never guaranteed. And we knew that.
Each hour-long leg that I swam was EXHILARATING. I couldn’t believe I was part of an English Channel swim. I remember feeling absolutely blown away by the teal colored milky luminescent water. It was absolutely beautiful and I was swimming in it.
The hours ticked by. One swimmer battled terrible seasickness, but never gave up. He swam his last hour. And for that he was our MVP.
Finally, at 3am with less than ½ mile to go and a storm brewing, we approached France. The water was so rough and the coastline so treacherous that it was completely unsafe to take the pilot boat any further. A decision had to be made very quickly. One of the crew jumped in a zodiac, and, with almost Navy SEAL precision, guided Jordan as he swam and bodysurfed the waves to reach the coastline of France.
And just like that, we did it. It took us 13 hours 46 minutes. WE DID IT!!!! We swam to FRANCE!!!!!!!!!
And the next day we added our names to history by signing the walls of the famous White Horse Tavern in Dover.