A tour of the Alcatraz island is found on every “things to do” list for the San Francisco Bay Area. When one visits this famed island, the tour guide mentions the story of the prisoners who tried to escape the island by attempting to swim to shore. This gave rise to a now world renowned event where swimmers gather in hundreds to swim the 1.5-mile distance from Alcatraz back to shore. It’s almost a bucket list item on every open water swim list. Meet Angel More, the 15-year old open water swimmer, who has completed this route more than 50 times!
Angel’s latest accomplishment is a recently concluded 22-mile swim across the Catalina channel. She is attempting the California Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming which includes 12-mile in the Santa Barbara channel, 22-mile across the Catalina channel, and 22-mile trans Lake Tahoe.
We met this young lady to learn about her pursuits, accomplishments, and plans for the future.
What was your experience at Catalina and what training goes into a marathon swim?
The swim at Catalina started at 10:36pm and I swam more than 14 hours to shore. When I jumped into the water around 10:30 pm, I was very nervous as there was darkness all around, and I had never experienced this level of darkness before. I knew I had to swim 22 miles, but I don’t think I had internalized this very well. It was pitch dark with only moonlight shining on the water surface, and the sound of the kayak beside me. It was surreal and pretty at the same time, and felt like I was swimming in a marble!
In such marathon events, wetsuits are not permitted and participants wear a regular swimsuit, a silicone cap, and a pair of goggles. The water temperature in Catalina was 66-68F. My training for the event included swimming 5 km in the pool everyday. On Thursdays before school, I would swim in the San Francisco Bay for 3 hours from 4:30-7:30 am. The longest I’d swum before the Catalina swim (22 miles) attempt was a swim in the Santa Barbara channel (12 miles). Although I was nervous at the start of Catalina, I felt prepared.
During the Catalina event, what was most challenging and what was the highlight?
Along the way I had dolphins swim alongside me, and it was one of my favorite parts. The hardest part was when I got stuck in a current for a very long time. I could see the land, but wasn’t moving forward. This was mentally challenging as I had to keep going despite knowing that I would not be making any progress in distance. Even though I was swimming continuously, I was stationary for almost 2 hours. I had to keep swimming just to counter the current, which would have otherwise pushed me towards San Diego.
What was your reaction when you finally reached the shore?
While I was swimming I wasn’t tired, but when I reached the shore, that’s when I realized how exhausted I was. The exit from the water onto shore was rocky and my guide swimmer couldn’t help me through that for two reasons; one it’s against the rules and also nobody can touch me for a while after I finish. Even my parents cannot hug me at the finish line because my body temperature is low and the instant heat transfer can send my body into shock.
How do you feel about your next challenge, the Trans Tahoe swim in August?
The Trans Tahoe swim is a 22-mile swim across Lake Tahoe. It’s the third and final swim of the California Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming series. It will be more challenging as it will be at an elevation. It is a freshwater swim and I won’t have the buoyancy of saltwater to my advantage. I’ll also have to ensure that I swim in a straight line to avoid any extra mileage. To acclimatize, I’ll to go a week before my event to get my body adjusted to the water. Thus far, I’m the youngest swimmer to complete the Santa Barbara channel swim and the Catalina Island swim. I’m excited about Tahoe!
You’re also organizing a fundraising swim for Children International. Tell us about that.
In the past I’ve raised $40,000 for Children International, which is a non-profit organization that helps children around the world escape poverty. I’m organizing a swim from Alcatraz to the SF shore which is open to high school students in the Bay Area.** All proceeds from this will go to Children International. I’m drawn to this organization because I want to help other kids who don’t have access to the same resources that I do.
** To join or donate towards Angel’s fundraiser swim from Alcatraz, visit her page at: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/escape-from-alcatraz-to-escape-from-poverty/angelmore