I’m cogitating on a big decision regarding my Catalina crossing in late August. I’ve recently increased my time in the bay, and while it’s still cold, I’m doing fairly well. The plan is to gradually increase my tolerance to the cold, to the point that my long swims will be held in open water. I’m only now starting to increase my yardage in the pool, but I have a training plan and trust my and my coach’s judgment.
Following my application to CCSF, I’ve been in contact with two of their officials. In my conversation with them today, they said they would not approve my application unless I swam two qualifying swims for them in 60-degree water: 6 hours in April and 10 hours in May, with observers. While some associations, such as the English Channel, have such requirements, Catalina does not have an official qualifying requirement. These additional hoops are attributed to the fact that I don’t have enough cold water experience in their opinion.
I have no doubt that the CCSF means well, and that they consider this additional cautionary measure an important guarantee that all applicants are up to the task. But I am a grown woman, have considered my fitness and investment in this venture carefully, and I would respond better to advice and counsel than to unequally-applied requirements. It may well be that swimming 10 hours in 60-degree water is a great idea. But if it is, I want it to be my decision, not something I do to jump through externally-imposed hoops.
So, I am more and more excited about the prospect of swimming Catalina unsanctioned. I already have a boat and a pilot, a crew, and a training plan. I have friends who can act as observers for the swim, and I have every intention of complying with channel rules during the swim. The water belongs to everyone; it is not owned by channel associations. The only consequence, as far as I can tell, is that my name will not appear on the CCSF channel crossing list, but I’m realizing that I don’t really care: I will know that I swam it, and so will the people I love, and we will raise money for indigent advocacy, and that is the only thing that matters to me. I want to bring back the feeling of swimming for my own pleasure, gratification, health, and sense of achievement, rather than for the approval of others.
Much as I’m excited about the prospect of swimming unsanctioned, I haven’t given CCSF my final answer on whether I’m going to do the qualifying swims. I’m going to give this some thought over the next week or two. Your advice on whether swimming unsanctioned has any downsides I may have disregarded will be welcome.