San Diego

Cold, Dark, & Sharks: San Diego Teens To Swim Catalina Channel

Six San Dieguito Swim Club teenagers will try to set a relay record for charity

Six San Diego area high school swimmers are training to make a dream come true, but it may sound like more of a nightmare to most people.

The six teens who call themselves "The Channel Chasers" will attempt to swim the grueling 20.2 mile Catalina Channel between Catalina Island and San Pedro on Saturday, October 12.

The athletes are part of the Rancho San Dieguito swim club based out of Solana Beach and will swim in rotations of roughly one hour as part of a relay record attempt.

"We're going to try and swim around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., swim throughout the night into the morning, so I'm a bit nervous," said Mason Morris, a 16-year-old at The Bishop's School.

The team will swim at night because the ocean conditions are more favorable; but as you can imagine, the scenario lends itself to some understandable pre-swim jitters.

Taylor Lyon, a student at Torrey Pines High School, said she is just trying not to think about all of the "sea creatures" beneath her.

Teammate Drew Schmidt, a student at Santa Fe Christian, was a little more direct. "I know the sharks are out there, I just have to hope they're not around when we're doing our swim that they're somewhere else," Schmidt said.

The team will compete under the watchful eye of Rancho San Dieguito coach and competitive open water swimmer, Gracie Van Der Byl, who is considered one of the best distance ocean swimmers in the world.

"Well, I remind them that they have a better chance of getting killed by their refrigerator falling on them," said Van Der Byl.

Van Der Byl will be in a boat next to the relay swimmers throughout the nighttime journey.

"What's interesting is more people have summited Everest than have done this channel. So the fact we've got this group of under-18 kids attempting something that such a small population, it puts them in an extreme sports category," said Van Der Byl.

The teenage swimmers are already training twice a day in the pool but have moved workouts to La Jolla Cove in preparation of the swim.

They are being told to draw on a lot of courage and strength to overcome the fact they won't be able to see or hear anything in the water.

The water will also be shockingly cold.

According to official rules of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, the swimmers can't wear wet suits or touch the support boat at any time.

But the teens aren't just working hard in the water. They're also raising money as part of a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito.

All donations will go towards scholarships for swim lessons and help with repairs around the facility.

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