SBCSA and CCSF Annual Banquets, 2013

This past weekend I attended the annual banquets of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation (CCSF) and Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association (SBCSA). For the past few years the two events have been scheduled for the same day, in the same city (San Pedro), with CCSF providing brunch at the Doubletree and the SBCSA providing dinner at a restaurant downtown. This arrangement seems to maximize cross-pollination between the two events – reminding everyone of the patch of ocean we share, and giving us just a little more time together.

This is my third year attending “Banquet Day” in San Pedro.

In 2011, I was a swimmer-honoree at the CCSF event, having just crossed the Catalina Channel (8:55 on August 25, and I didn’t even have to look it up). Later that day, I attended my first board meeting with the SBCSA. Rob D. and I then moved on to the Crowne Plaza bar and talked of big dreams into the wee hours.

In 2012, I returned to celebrate the new class of CCSF swimmers including my dear friend Gracie, the new record holder. Later that night at the SBCSA banquet I celebrated my own Santa Cruz Island swim and record. We watched a trailer for DRIVEN, and welcomed new board members Rob, Cherie, and Theo.

This year’s Banquet Day featured a screening of DRIVEN, now a stunning 72-minute finished product going into the 2014 film festival season. My record may have been broken, but the swim lives on. (A review is forthcoming.)

With the co-stars of DRIVEN, Cherie and Fiona. Photo by Paula Selby
Q&A with DRIVEN co-stars Cherie and Fiona. Photo by Paula Selby

Like academic conferences, these events’ value for returning attendees is mostly for the reunions and networking rather than the speeches. I was reminded that I catch up with certain people not nearly often enough (Gracie, Forrest, Mallory). I’ll remember meeting interesting new friends, Claudia R. and Kim C.

And most of all I’ll remember an unexpected and profoundly meaningful honor from my colleague Scott Zornig, whose loyalty and conviction I’ve valued these past couple months more than ever before.

A movie that deserves to be made

At the SBCSA annual banquet this past weekend, Ben Pitterle and Brian Hall showed a brand-new trailer for their independent documentary film about marathon swimming, DRIVEN. The film features three swims across the Santa Barbara Channel this past summer – including my Santa Cruz Island swim.

See for yourself:

Driven Trailer from Element 8 Productions on Vimeo.

They just started an online fundraising campaign, which will continue for the next 30 days.

THE FUNDRAISING PAGE IS HEREThere are various “perks” available in return for your contributions – including a listing in the closing credits for only $100.

On a personal note…

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog over the past nearly three years – perhaps occasionally to the detriment of my career and personal life. I’ve never made any money from it (just a few affiliate commissions). Indeed, I continuously lose money to web hosting fees.

It’s a labor of love – love for swimming, and love for writing.

Similarly, this film is a labor of love for Ben and Brian. If they end up making any money from it, it probably won’t be much, and certainly paltry compensation for the countless hours they’ve put into it.

And that’s assuming it even gets made – it may not. Filmmaking (especially good filmmaking) is expensive. Ben and Brian are not financed by a studio. They’re not personally wealthy. They are depending on the open-water swimming community to come together and make this happen. It’s the story of three swimmers; but really, it’s all of our stories.

If you’ve ever gotten anything out of this blog – a useful tip, or a moment of inspiration – this is one very meaningful way you can pay it forward. 

I admit, there’s a certain selfish desire to see my swim (a life-changing experience) on the big screen. But Cherie, Fiona, and I are merely vectors for a larger story about an incredible, extreme, yet largely anonymous sport. The story will be told not just by us, but also through interviews with, among others: David Yudovin, Ned Denison, and Steve Munatones.

And the main character isn’t a person, but rather a place – the Santa Barbara Channel, one of the richest and most beautiful marine environments on Earth.

Please consider helping make this film a reality. Even $10 – if contributed by every email and RSS subscriber of this blog – would make a substantial dent in their unmet funding needs.

Thanks for reading.

Related Links

Santa Cruz Island swim (the making of…)

I haven’t mentioned it on this site yet (or at least, the nature of my connection with it), but my recent Santa Cruz Island swim will be a subject of an upcoming independent documentary film, DRIVEN.

You will hear more about the film in the coming months. For now, I want to alert readers to the official website – – which includes a page for recent production updates. The most recent update is worth reproducing here:

Last Friday was touch and go as we prepared to film Evan’s Santa Cruz Island crossing. Last minute film crew boat troubles left us scrambling to find another boat to get us out to the islands to film Evan’s swim. Thanks to Dave S. for coming through for us at the last minute!

We left SB Harbor at 7 PM Friday night and began our 4.5 hour crossing to San Pedro Point by sail boat. 15 – 20 knot winds in 3 – 4 foot seas left some of our crew feeling less than chipper as we made our way across the channel. Extra uncertainty was added to the situation not knowing if Evan and his support crew would postpone the swim at the last minute due to the windy conditions. In the end, both boats met at around midnight, and the rest of the filming went without a hitch.

Evan started his swim shortly after midnight. A beautiful sunrise provided a great background and lighting for some fantastic above and under-water shots. Both Evan and his crew struggled until the very end through far from ideal conditions. We followed Evan all the way to the finish as he rode the waves onto the beach, thoroughly exhausted, and setting a new speed record for the Santa Cruz Island Crossing. We want to give a special thank you to Evan and his crew for having us along for his remarkable journey. And an extra special thanks to Alex, my dedicated kayaker, who pulled it all together to get the job done despite some serious sea-sickness!

It was a day to remember…


A movie about marathon swimming: Fundraiser in Laguna Beach

This Thursday from 5:30-7:30pm Pacific time, Laguna Canyon Winery will host a wine tasting / fundraiser for an independent documentary film about marathon swimming. The Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, on whose board of directors I serve, has been involved in the production of this film in several interesting ways. At the wine tasting, the filmmakers will give a brief presentation, answer questions, and show some preview clips.

If you think marathon swimming is cool, and you live in Southern California, please consider attending. It’s a great opportunity to support both the sport and independent filmmaking – not to mention, taste some great wines and hang out with other swimmers. Entry is $35 and can be purchased at the door.

Laguna Canyon Winery is located at 2133 Laguna Canyon Rd in Laguna Beach. 5:30pm this Thursday – be there!

Whirlpool Drill

Whirlpool Drill is one of my very favorite swimming drills – yet when I’ve shown or told people about it, I’ve been surprised how few have heard of it. It’s so much fun it almost seems like it shouldn’t be a drill. So here I am, sharing the wealth.

The other day I was doing a filming session off Santa Cruz Island (more on that later), and Whirlpool Drill was accidentally caught on tape! I was treading water, talking to one of the filmmakers, and a little whirlpool started to form near one of my hands. I got my interlocutor’s attention and made the whirlpool bigger for a few seconds while he kept the GoPro running. At one point, a stray piece of kelp was drawn into the vortex. Here’s the clip:

Basically, you scull your hand back and forth a few inches under water – rapidly, trying to maintain constant pressure against the water. If you’re doing it right, you’ll make a whirlpool! Bonus points for big and/or long-lasting whirlpools. Extra bonus points for keeping two of them going – both hands, at the same time!

Whirlpool Drill is basically a more focused, intense form of the various sculling drills, which are intended to reinforce a solid catch and “feel for the water.”

How big is your whirlpool?