Geography & History

The Channel Islands of California are comprised of eight islands.  These in turn are grouped as the Northern  Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa  Rosa, Santa Cruz, and  channel_islands_mapAnacapa) and the Southern  Channel Islands (San Nicholas, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, and San Clemente).  Additionally, Santa Barbara Island joins the  Northern Channel Islands,  to constitute the Channel  Islands National Park. Santa Barbara Island is the smallest of the eight islands with a footprint of a single square mile.

The history of marathon swims involving Santa Barbara Island is brief.  To the best of our knowledge, the first swim involving Santa Barbara Island  happened in September 2009.  Australian Penny Palfrey boldly determined to take on this stretch of water, and to swim from the island to the California mainland.   The shortest distance from Santa Barbara Island to the mainland leads to Point Mugu—37.7 statute miles away, in a north-by-northeast direction.  Penny opted to swim slightly further, heading to Point San Vincente in an east-by-northeast direction.  This is a 41.1 statute mile swim, a bit longer, but perhaps more sensible in that it is better aligned with the typical west-to-east tug of ocean currents.  Penny completed her trailblazing swim in 17 hours and 53 minutes; she scored a “first”.

There were no other recorded swims involving Santa Barbara Island until 2014.  That year, in August, a six person relay (the “Laguna Six”)  undertook  a swim from Santa Barbara Island to Santa Catalina Island (a distance of  24.4 statute miles).  The swim took 15 hours and 53 minutes to complete; this was the first ever relay between Santa Barbara Island  and Santa Catalina Island.

Then in 2015, several swims involving Santa Barbara Island occurred.  In early September, Nancy Merrow became the first person to circumnavigate the island.  Nancy completed this 5.0 statute mile swim in 2 hours and 41 minutes.

In  mid-September (2015), Peter Hayden performed a unique swim.  He coupled two swims together—first he  circumnavigated the island in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Then he immediately rolled into an inter-island swim  from Santa Barbara Island to Santa Catalina  Island. This was a first-ever swim, and it took him 13 hours and 27 minutes to  accomplish.  The total time elapsed for his two swims was 16 hours and 47  minutes.  This  creative pair of swims echoes back to his  2013 performance, in which  he circumnavigated Anacapa Island, and then immediately swam from that island  to the mainland.   The Santa Barbara Island / Santa Catalina pair of swims, like Peter’s Anacapa swim routes, when  drawn, looks like a comma,  or a prawn, or maybe Norway.

Then, in late September, Dan Simonelli led two groups of teenagers, on a first-ever relay swim from Santa Barbara Island to  Anacapa Island.  There were twelve swimmers, known as the Arch Academy Zombies; two Zombie Patrols (A and B) were comprised of six swimmers each. These two Patrols (e.g. relay teams), were together the first-ever swims between Santa Barbara Island and Anacapa Island.  The distance covered was 40.9 statute miles; the two patrols accomplished the swim in 27 hours and 10 minutes.

That is the apparent extent of the history of marathon swimming involving Santa Barbara Island.