Abby Bergman swims Catalina Channel, Santa Barbara Channel, Lake Tahoe
By Chad Winthrop
The California Triple Crown of marathon swimming consists of three iconic and grueling open-water distance swims and Abbey Bergman, a local swimmer, recently completed them all:
The Catalina Channel (20.1 miles), the Santa Barbara Channel (12.4 miles) and the length of Lake Tahoe (21.3). Now at 23, Bergman has completed all three – with a smooth swim of 11 hours 19 minutes from Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe, CA to Incline Village in North Lake Tahoe, NV. Bergman swam overnight from 9 p.m. Tuesday, August 6 through 8:19 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7.
Each of the three swims has its own unique challenges: for Lake Tahoe, it is a combination of swimming at high altitude (6225 feet above sea level) in water that can be extremely cold due to the snowmelt. Santa Barbara Channel (swimming from Oxnard to Anacapa Island) also delivers cold water, strong currents that can push the swimmer laterally off course, and choppy seas and animal encounters. Catalina Channel (swimming from Catalina to Palos Verdes) also has its share of rough choppy seas, varying winds and currents, in slightly warmer water.
For all three of these swims, Bergman followed the Marathon Swimmer Federation Guidelines of wearing only a single textile suit, non-thermal swim cap, earplugs and goggles.
Marathon swimming offers unique challenges: each swim is different on any different day and as Bergman says, “you never know quite what to expect.”
The marathon open swim community is a small tightly-knit supportive group. For the Tahoe swim, Bergman was supported by Catherine Breed, herself an accomplished marathon swimmer and current Lake Tahoe course record holder. Breed paddled a kayak alongside Bergman for most of the 21 miles. And the boat pilot, Tom Linthicum, is also well known in swimming circles for completing many marathon swims around the U.S.
Completing the California Triple Crown “feels unreal,” says Bergman. “I was so nervous for the Tahoe swim: I had never done a lake marathon swim before, or a marathon swim at altitude, but Lake Tahoe’s beauty did not disappoint. Swimming under the stars was magical.”