April Newsletter

Posted by Scott Zornig, 1 April 2012

Applications for the 2012 season are due May 1

We know that times are tough and Marathon Swimming is expensive. It seems like marathon swimming is becoming a sport for single people who are independently wealthy. The SBCSA feels your pain which is one of the reasons we provide early bird discounts. Actually, we are not being completely selfless here…we need time to organize and arrange observers for the upcoming season. So you are really helping us when you submit your paperwork early.

All kidding aside, The SBCSA a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of 9 people who are not compensated. The money received from fees and membership is used to pay for observers, insurance, bookkeeping and one part-time contract employee. Our goal is to break even each year and so far, we have achieved our objective. Should you have an interest in swimming with us, please visit our website. You will find applications, medical release forms and membership information. We hope you are able to swim with us this season and take advantage of the early bird discounts.

Santa Cruz Island History

Santa Cruz Island was once the largest privately owned island off the continental United States, but is currently part-owned by the National Park service and the Nature Conservancy. Santa Cruz is 22 miles long and from 2 to 6 miles wide. It is 19.9 miles off the mainland from the California coast and is virtually the same distance swim as Catalina without the same conditions. It is the largest of the eight islands in the Channel Island chain with the highest point at 2450 feet.

The Chumash Indian tribe lived on the island and developed a highly complex society dependent on marine harvest, craft specialization and trade with the mainland population. The Santa Cruz Island Chumash produced shell beads that they used for currency, which formed an important part of the overall Chumash economy. Native Indians had no known contact with Europeans until 1602, when Sebastián Vizcaíno led the last Spanish expedition to California. His map named Santa Cruz Island the Isla de Gente Barbuda (island of the bearded people). In 1822, the last of the Chumash left the island for mainland California.

In 1821 the Mexican government asserted its control over California. In an effort to increase the Mexican presence, the government began sending convicted criminals to California. Around 40 prisoners were sent to Santa Cruz Island where they lived for a short time in an area now known as Prisoners Harbor. The island then went through a series of private owners which included Andrés Castillero, William Barron and Justinian Caire. During this time the owners raised sheep, cattle and horses.

Santa Cruz has been a base for otter hunters, fishermen, and smugglers. The Channel Islands often provided smugglers and bootleggers with isolated hideaways where they could store their goods. One of these areas is known today as Smugglers Cove.

The first swim was completed off this island almost 29 years ago on August 16, 1983 by David Yudovin of Cambria, California. Almost a year to the day later, a second swim was completed by Ashby Harper. Ashby actually thought he was the first person to have completed a swim off the island as he did not know that David had completed his swim a year earlier. During the 80’s there was no governing swim organization and no place to maintain the history. However, Ashby did take a different, much longer route finishing in Santa Barbara (23.5 miles) while David took a shorter route and finished in Ventura (19.0 miles). There is still a small controversy until this day regarding the official route. Some people feel the longer route to Santa Barbara is the correct route while most, including the SBCSA, recognize the swim to Ventura as the official route.

SBCSA board member, Ned Denison, holds the record for the fastest time off the island (10:27 set in 2006). Tina Neill holds the fastest time for a female with 10:32 set in 2011. No swimmer has broken the 10 hour mark even though the distance is approximately one mile shorter than Catalina Island to mainland.

The SBCSA’s Desire

The SBCSA board wishes that all major marathon swimming organizations would unify and agree upon universal rules and recognition. We suggest a committee made up of the marathon swimming organizations is necessary to maintain the 137 year tradition of our sport. If you feel a committee of marathon organizations would benefit marathon swimming then please email the organizations you are in contact with and let them know. With so much growth going on in marathon swimming the SBCSA thinks it is important for the organizations to align and protect the sport for future generations to enjoy.

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