Sean Murrays
5. Catalina Channel
Catalina Channel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 27 February 2012 18:49

Toughest swim yet for Steve

By Philip O'Regan (From The Southern Star) Saturday October 29th, 2011

Steve Redmond completed the Catalina Channel swim in California, USA, on Thursday night last. The 21-mile swim, which took 12 hours, 37 minutes, was, according to Steve, his toughest challenge yet. (Photo: Philip O’Regan)

Steve Redmond successfully completed the fourth leg of the Ocean’s Seven Challenge 

By Philip O’Regan 

STEVE Redmond successfully negotiated the fourth leg of the Ocean’s Seven Challenge on Thursday last, October 20th, when he completed the Catalina Channel swim in California. 

This swim of the channel between Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles, California, USA, was, according to Steve, the hardest yet and was the ‘worst experience of my life’. 

A number of things seemed to conspire to make life difficult for Steve this time out. His greatest complication was the fact that his stomach cramped up early in the swim and Steve couldn’t digest his food. At one point during the swim Steve stopped up and treaded water for up to fifteen minutes. Then, from somewhere, he found the reserves of energy – physical and emotional – to carry on and complete the swim. 

Complicating factor 

Another complicating factor for Steve was that the swim took place at night and he found it quite disconcerting to swim in the dark. 

For most of Steve’s swims, he starts as early in the morning as he can to avail of light and heat, but in California the conditions in the sea are much calmer at night. 

Steve did the swim in a time of 12 hours, 37 minutes and became the first Irishman to complete the Catalina Channel swim, and one of only two men who have successfully completed the North, English and Catalina Channel swims. 

While Steve’s training schedule for the swim had gone very well, including his extraordinary 26-mile swim around the Fastnet on August 17th, the Catalina Channel swim was a huge challenge. 

Because of limited resources, Steve travelled to California only on Tuesday last and so had little time to recover properly from the long journey and, most critically, had barely enough time to rehydrate properly following the long flight. Steve’s brother, Anthony, travelled with him and that was the sum total of the travelling party. 

Steve is very grateful for the reception and all the help he got in California. In particular, Skibbereen man Brian Carmody did a huge amount of work for Steve in establishing contacts and putting in place many of the arrangements and dealing with some of the logistics for the swim. 


Although Steve felt pretty awful after Catalina, he has decided to go ahead with plans to cross America and try and complete his fifth swim in the Oceans Seven Challenge. On Wednesday night he was to attempt the Molokai Channel swim in Hawaii. 

At the best of times this is a daunting task, but with so little recovery time this is a huge ask, even for a man with Steve Redmond’s extraordinary capacity and resilience. This 27-mile swim is across a deep-water channel with exceptionally strong currents in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and aggressive marine life. A big change for Steve also will be that it is very warm water, far from what he is used to. 

The Ocean’s Seven Challenge — a swim of the world’s most difficult channels — is something that has never been achieved. Ocean’s Seven is the marathon swimming equivalent of the mountain climbing challenge, Seven Summits. Steve is aiming to be the first man to complete the Ocean’s Seven Challenge and has now completed four of the swims — and hopefully by Thursday morning five of the swims. 

In 2009 he did the English Channel. On August 31st 2010 he did the gruelling North Channel swim, from Portpatrick, near Larne in Scotland, to Blackhead, north of Belfast Harbour, in a time of 17 hours and 17 minutes. At the time, just four individuals had completed that swim and only two had done it at the first attempt. 

In April this year, Steve completed the third of the challenges, swimming the Strait of Gibraltar. 

The Cook Strait in New Zealand, and the Tsugaru Strait, which is the channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan, connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean, are the other two challenges. However, the water in the Tsugaru Strait is presently contaminated with nuclear material since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, so there may be some delay there.

Catalina Swim PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 25 November 2011 16:34

Training goes on as we approach Catalina with great fear. Getting to these places is the hardest thing of all.

And as we finally get into LA. we realise we are on the edge. The hotel is right on the water, near our boat so meal and bed. In Los Angeles another Irish contact Brian Carmody helps with the hotel and our recovery strategy if we intend to go onto Hawaii.

One day’s rest and prepping and it’s onto the boat for a steam over to Catalina Island, to start the swim at 1.00 am. I am in denial as this is the first time I have ever got on a boat to swim at the time booked for swim. Normally the wind follows me wherever I go and we are always hanging around waiting. I’m shocked. So little time to rest after flight, preparing kit and gathering stores for the boat.

We have an engine starter problem which is fixed and we are not delayed too long, nerves jangling jangling, thoughts of “have we taken on too much, so far away from home?”. Enough. We try to sleep going out. It  seems a long way. Jesus, nerves. Given a shout up by Anthony, my brother and my traveling companion. The poor bugger is suffering with sea sickness. A long delay at the start trying to get us in close to shore. It’s really really dark. At last we are in.

I got pretty cold standing around and try to swim in over a kelp forest. In the end I swim/roll over them. After jarring my shoulders in the kelp I reach land exhausted and this is only the start! Not a good feeling.

I swim with a paddle-boarder next to me from the Catalina Swimming Association, which is new to me, and awkward and hard to see and avoid the board. Gracie is talking to me which I am not used to and I feel she is trying to tell me something or I should stop. Stroking at about 54 strokes per minute but the phosphorescence is like a welding arc under the water. Jesus, bad news. First feed down is a bit slow as it’s done off the board, I’m not enjoying this. The doubts, the doubts. This is their golden time. After hours Forrest Nelson (Editor: another Nominee for World Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year) comes in. I am amazed by the care taken by the Catalina Swimming Association. It is humbling to come half way around the world and meet strangers who will do anything  to see you succeed and indeed Forrest, and Marta my observer got me through the monster.

I can only assume the journey and the quick lead into the swim affected me but my stomach locked up and six hours in, I treaded water for 15 minutes pleading to stop….

Two miles to go on Catalina

Never a ladder down, nothing. In the end Anthony pushed the one button that he knew would stir anger and a refusal to quit in me. He explained to Forrest to come out to me and quietly tell me that my kids had just called to see how we were and they had said that I should not give up. The tipping point of the swim. How did Forest know this?? Middle of the channel cursing them all, abuse flying, it was such a surreal moment that I had no other choice. A Milky Way was flung to me and I just put my head back in the water and got going again.

Utter joy and humility are what we should all feel . This swim bought them. We finished in twelve hours and thirty minutes to cheers and much laughter. At this point I did not want to see water again for a long long time. No way was I going to Hawaii!!

We had a great meal with my support team, enjoyed talking, also met the smiling manSteve Munatones, who caught me for a sound bite of how tough the swim was.

Great to meet the man who was a huge help to us in LA and with the rest of trip and future swims as well. We stagger back to room and collapse to black sleep for six hours.


Many Thanks to everyone at Skibbereen Tool Hire for all your support.