Open Water Swimming and Whitewater Stand Up Paddling
My biggest swimming achievement to date is solo swimming (26 miles) the English Channel in August 2008 in 12 hours and 28 minutes. I swam the channel as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. I was the 943rd person in the world, and the first from Tennessee, to have a successful solo swim across the English Channel.
Additional recent swimming accomplishments include:
- July 2009: Placed third in the Santa Barbara 6-Mile-Ocean Swim.
- October 2008: I was part of a 26-mile Trans Monterey Bay Relay swim from Santa Cruz to Monterey, CA.
- September 2008: Placed third in the SERC Alcatraz Invitational Swim.
- June 2008: Swam 21 miles in the San Francisco Bay from China Camp State Park to the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oakland Bay Bridge in 6 hours.
- July 2007: Placed second swimming solo the width of Lake Tahoe from California to Nevada in 4 hours 36 minutes.
- June 2006: First place in the “Swim Around the Rock,” a 3.5-mile race around Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay.
I am an open water swimmer and a white-water stand-up paddle (SUP) boarder.
The primary allure of open water swimming and whitewater paddling is my love of boundary-free water-in-motion and the outdoors. I started swimming competitively at the age of 7 in Chattanooga, Tenn., and 15 years later completed four years of Division I collegiate swimming at the University of Miami and James Madison University. In college (1996), I became a whitewater raft guide on the Ocoee River in Eastern Tennessee, the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events, and became an avid whitewater kayaker. It wasn’t until 2006, while performing my postdoctoral research at the University of California San Francisco, that I made the move from the pool to swimming in oceans, lakes, and rivers, in a sport called open water swimming. Open water swimming (and its lack of walls and flip turns) allowed me access to an uninterrupted stroke rhythm and breathing pattern so I could swim for hours on end. As a white-water paddler, I have internalized the basic principles of water-in-motion. Paddlers think in terms of currents, eddies and ferry angles, and these same principles apply in swimming in ocean currents. There’s nothing like hitching a ride swimming in a strong ebb or flood tide, or the feeling of swimming against the current, or swim ferrying across the current as in a kayak or on a SUP.
Last summer, I applied my paddling skills to the SUP board and became one of the first two people to stand-up paddle on the Ocoee River (Class IV) and Nantahala River (in North Carolina). This is a cutting edge extreme sport with very few souls who have attempted to surf through whitewater rapids standing up on a surf board. Since whitewater SUPing is such a new sport there is not any sport-specific equipment commercially available. Since a lot of safety gear is required, we (my husband Ben and I) are borrowing equipment from football, skate-boarding, snow-boarding, surfing and whitewater kayaking.