Evan Morrison takes full advantage of living near a large body of water.
When he isn’t working as a corporate data analyst, the Goleta resident often can be found swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
An experienced open-water swimmer, Morrison on Saturday will jump into the ocean at San Pedro Point on Santa Cruz Island and attempt to swim 19 miles across the Santa Barbara Channel to Hollywood Beach in Oxnard — and do it in a record time.
Morrison is seeking to break the mark of 10 hours, 27 minutes, set by Ned Denison of Ireland in 2006.
“There are a total of eight people who have swum solo from Santa Cruz to the mainland. So, if I’m successful, I’ll be No. 9,” said Morrison, who swam competitively for Dos Pueblos High (class of 1998) and Princeton (a 2002 grad).
He noted there is another route from the island that’s 23.5 miles and finishes at Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara, But the course to the mainland in Oxnard is the one recognized by the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association.
Morrison, 32, is a member of the board of directors for the organization.
A swimmer since the age of 3, Morrison got started in long-distance open-water swim in his late 20s and immediately fell in love with the sport.
Last year, he did four big swims: he won the 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon (8 hours, 59 minutes) in April; took third in the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (7:34) in June; finished the 20-mile Catalina Channel crossing (8:55) in August and, in October, he took first place in the Ederle Swim (from Sandy Hook, N.J., to lower Manhattan’s Battery Park), in a record time of 5:24.53 seconds.
In a warm-up for his Santa Cruz Island to Oxnard swim, Morrison did three round-trip crossings from Maui to Lanai in Hawaii — a distance of 9.8 miles — over the Labor Day weekend. He did one crossing as a member of a 6-person team in the Maui Channel Relay, a solo swim along the same course and a snorkeling trip (via ferry) to Hulopoe Beach.
In July, he won the Semana Nautica 3-mile and 6-mile ocean swims.
Asked how he fights off the monotony and fatigue that sets in on marathon swims, Morrison said he’s learned how to put himself into a zone.
“I try to turn off my mind as much as possible — to achieve a sort of meditative or Zen-like state,” he explained. “I try to focus on nothing but the rhythm of my stroke, and the feel and sound of the water around me. Occasionally, if I’m getting fatigued and slowing down, a catchy song (in my head) helps bring me back.”
Besides the pain and fatigue, Morrison will have to deal with cold water (wetsuits are not allowed), possibly big swells and chop, unpredictable currents, jellyfish and other wildlife while swimming across the Santa Barbara Channel.
“(One of the) psychological challenges is the fear of what’s swimming around in the 2,000 feet of water below me,” he said.
Morrison said he’s never encountered a shark while swimming in the ocean,
“I’m scared of sharks, like anyone would be. However, humans aren’t their preferred food source, and the odds of being attacked are infinitesimally small,” he said. “There’s risk in any adventure sport. I probably take more risk each time I drive a car than I do swimming across the channel.”
Morrison’s swim will be captured by a film crew that is doing a documentary about marathon swimming. He is one of three swimmers who will be featured in the project marathonswimmovie.com.
His support crew on the adventure includes two-time U.S. 25k swim champion and 2008 Olympian Mark Warkentin, Rob Dumouchel, a friend and open-water swimmer from Arroyo Grande, and Cathy Delneo, a friend and open-water swimmer from San Francisco. His escort boat is piloted by Captain Forrest Mize out of Ventura Harbor.