Local open-water swimmer Evan Morrison shattered the record for a solo swim from Santa Cruz Island to the mainland in Oxnard on Saturday.
Morrison covered the 19 miles from the island’s San Pedro Point to Oxnard’s Hollywood Beach in 9 hours, 47 minutes, 49 seconds. The previous record was 10:27.
“Honestly, the record was the furthest thing from my mind,” Morrison admitted on Sunday. “At times, it took all the effort I could muster to just put one arm in front of the other. I’m still not sure how I made it across. Just standing on dry sand at the end seemed more important than any records.”
Morrison, a graduate of Dos Pueblos High and Princeton University, jumped into the water at around 12:45 a.m. and finished around 10:30. He becomes the ninth person to complete the swim.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Find updated channel swim record holders HERE
Hoping to make the journey in calm water in the middle of the night, Morrison and his support staff instead had to deal with challenging conditions.
“Winds were higher than forecast, producing confused chop that made swimming difficult,” he described. “My escort boat and kayak were getting blown around, which made it difficult to hold a straight line and avoid collisions. I think Mark (Warkentin, who was in the kayak 7 of the 10 hours, and throughout the night) was working just as hard as I was. To make matters worse, there was no moonlight, creating disorienting conditions for both swimmer and crew.”
Warkentin, a two-time U.S. 25k national champion and a 2008 Olympian in open-water swimming, admitted that he wasn’t prepared for the heavy chop and wind in the channel.
“It was a humbling admission when I eventually told Evan that I needed to go rest on the boat, and it’s a true testament to his determination and conditioning that he didn’t quit along with me,” said Warkentin, who after a break got back in the kayak.
“Evan had a great race under terrible conditions,” Warkentin said. “Everyone from the boat captain to Evan and definitely everyone in between hoped that the conditions would get just a little worse, so we’d have a good excuse to stop. Unfortunately, the conditions were just barely good enough for us to keep trudging along.
The swim is not the longest done by Morrison. Last year, he won the 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon, finished third in the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and completed the 20-mile Catalina Channel crossing.
But this one is probably been the most difficult.
“It was a brutal experience for all of us,” Morrison said. “We were pawns at the mercy of an indifferent ocean. I was in a very dark place personally, almost from start to finish, and am deeply indebted to my crew for staying positive and encouraging, despite an extremely stressful situation.”
Said Warkentin,” … for the rest of his life, Evan can now walk on the beach in Santa Barbara and point out to the big island and tell people that he CAN swim that far instead of just wondering like the rest of us.”