If the late legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell were announcing, he’d be screaming, “It’s over. It’s all over!, when the six-member Ventura Deep Six Relay team stepped onto the shore at La Jolla Cove on Monday.
Masters swimmers Jim McConica, Kurtis Baron, Dr. John Chung, Mike Shaffer, Tom Ball and Jim Neitz completed an amazing world-record journey of swimming 202 miles nonstop along the Southern California coast.
When Neitz entered La Jolla Cove at 11:50 a.m., it ended five days and four nights of churning through the Pacific Ocean, enduring frigid water temperature (low as 57 degrees), choppy conditions, fog, wind, jellyfish, soreness, sleeplessness, monotony and fatigue.
Once Neitz neared land, the other five swimmers jumped off the Zodiac and into the water and followed him to the beach, where they were greeted by cheering supporters, family members and the media.
“Neitz was the sixth man and he did what a sixth man does and that is finish,” said team spokesperson Michael Newhouse.
“It was really all about doing it together and we knew we could do it,” Nietz told KGTV 10 in San Diego. “There was a lot of stuff going on out there. A lot of time, the captain wanted to call and say we’re going in, but we stuck together and said we’re going to do it, (and) we did.”
Now, with all those miles logged in the record book, the Ventura Deep Six is sitting on top of the swimming world as holder of the longest continuous open-water swim by a relay team. The sextet from the Buenaventura Swim Club obliterated the previous mark of 78.2 miles set on Lake Taupo in New Zealand in January of 2009.
Newhouse said the record swim has sparked interest around the world. He said in an interview with Hall of Fame open-water swimmer Steven Munatones, the editor of the Daily News of Open-Water Swimming, that Munatones told him there’s already a buzz about breaking the record.
“These guys might have started something,” Newhouse said.
The journey started on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 6:30 a.m. when McConica jumped in the chilly water at Ventura Harbor. The relay trudged through choppy water and fog and reached Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara at around 8:45 p.m. that evening. Dr. Chung, a dentist in Santa Barbara and Goleta, and the third swimmer in the rotation, had the honor of swimming to the pier before making the turn south. He couldn’t touch the pier because it would have nullified the swim.
“None of us was going to let each other down,” said Chung, the youngest member of the team at 40. “Even when it was really, really cold, we’re just going to muscle throw it and we did… no wetsuits.”
Shaffer and Ball also have Santa Barbara ties. Shaffer was an All-American swimmer at UCSB in the late 1980s and Ball worked as a beach lifeguard in Santa Barbara for many years. He’s now a martial arts instructor with a fifth-degree black belt.
The Deep Six passed the previous record on Friday just before midnight near Point Dume. Neitz was in the water when they broke the mark at 11:45 p.m. McConica followed for the first midnight swim of the adventure.
“I had fish that actually drew blood on my feet because they were nibbling on you,” said McConica.
It took the team 17 rotations of each member swimming an hour to complete the 202 miles.
Under the English Channel crossing rules, the swimmers couldn’t wear wetsuits and had to follow the same order. The event was monitored by members of the international swimming federation