Catalina Channel Swim

Equipo completo que nos acompañó en el Cruce de Catalina
The Team

Finally, today I can tell my whole story…

In 2005 my friend Marcia Cleveland and myself were planning to swim together the Catalina Channel, which is located between Catalina Island and Palos Verdes (nearby Los Angeles in the Californian Coast); we wanted to mutually give bravery and overcome the fears this swim meant to each of us:  for Marcia, was to swim during the night, such as the rules of this event requires due to the lighter wind patterns which translate to less waves; and for me, one of the major fears was the presence of certain typical marine fauna of the Californian Coast, which until before my crossing I was not able to mention.   They were the “unmentionable”, and all my friends knew it was forbidden even just to mention them in my presence, not until I have had finished my Swim.


In the winter of 2004 Marcia contacted me, such as we had agreed, to start organizing our swim for the next summer, but my own ghosts were stronger than my bravery, and in that opportunity I did not encourage myself.   I told Marcia I was not ready to bring off, but if she continues with the original plan, I would crew her, and that was the way I did it.

Until 2015, I had accumulated several trips to the Catalina Island crewing some swimmers in their crossings.

Particularly, I have had trained my friend Antonio Argüelles for his two Triple Crowns, with three successful swims in California (1999, 2008, and 2009); and Mariel Hawley, who would be the first Mexican woman to complete the Three Crowns culminating with Catalina in 2012.  Also, I supported the 2-relay swim for my Friends Lety Flores and Isabel Cantú (2012), and supported in the attempt of Alfredo Carreras.

In last November, I attended to The International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Antonio at Los Angeles. In this event I received the invitation to attend the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation (CCSF) Annual Banquet for the next day in which are presented the acknowledgements for the swimmers of the season who successfully completed their swim.


I concurred in both events with my friend Liz Fry, who I met some years ago in one of my trips to the English Channel.  Liz knew part of my story and fears around Catalina Channel Swim.  In the CCSF Banquet we shared table, and when the swimmers parade to receive their awards started, she told me “Look at them Nora!!!  If they can, why you not?”  then, suddenly, she proposed:  “If you encourage yourself to swim Catalina  next year, I swim along with you”.

By my side, for a long time, I had been thinking I should deal with my fears if I wanted to be congruent with all the philosophy I always wanted to transmit to the swimmers I coach.   Also, Catalina was the unique missing swim to complete the Open Water Triple Crown, which consists in swimming The English Channel, Swim around Manhattan Island, and Catalina Channel Swim.


As I mentioned in a chapter of my book, the friendship between Channel simmers is incredible and solidary.   And this was the instance of my friends Liz Fry and Marcia Cleveland, who inspired me and impulse me to accomplish this swim, which definitely has been one of the most meaningful for me, after the Double-Way Swim through the English Channel.

Maybe it has not been the challenge with the most physical demand for me, but it does mentally and emotionally.  It was a project which flowed from the beginning.  Everything was taking its place and a lot of people joined to support me.


My issue was not to endure the distance (34 km), or to put up with cold water, or a night swim… were the ghosts        in my mind.   Furthermore, it would be my first long swim of this enormity after my marital separation from Roberto, who always supported and gave me trust.

A few weeks before the crossing, I expressed my feeling as an emotional mix and the sense similar to a parachute jump attempt, and I was not sure if I would be able to do it.   Even though, not all the feelings were unpleasant, I had a lot of emotions towards this challenge I was enjoying, and it has been a long time since I do not feel them with such intensity.


One of the persons who joined to help me was Mauricio Menache, distributor of Shark Shield in Mexico.  Thanks to him I could procure the devices manufactured in Australia, this device is a shark deterrent and protected us during the crossing.  The Shark Shield is an electronic device that creates an electromagnetic field to deter shark attacks, the electromagnetic waves are imperceptible for the human but the sharks perceived and they keep away.   I am not really sure if they function perfectly, but they made me feel secure and protected.   Mauricio lent me two devices and Liz brought an additional one.   The battery of each one lasts approximately 4 hours, so, they should be replaced a couple of times.

In spite of the expertise of Liz and mine in Open Water Swims, we had a pair of oversights such as freshmen.  The first one, was to forget to bring to the boat the chargers for the Shark Shields and the second one, were the xyalum lights for the escort kayak.  Liz could obtain the lights in the San Pedro Marina, but the Shark Shield´s chargers were not easy to replace; so, we calculate we MUST swim approximately in 12 hours.

The last surprise before we started the swim was to give us a blind that the streams predicted for that night were on the opposite side we would swim, it meant, in the no traditional route:  from the coast to the island.  Liz and I had already booked with CCSF our attempt on that direction, so I was too late to think on changing the side of the trail.

Since the moment I made my mind to attempt the Catalina Channel Cross, it was really amazing how everything took its place, and all the friends who added to the project to support me.

I was sponsored by Remax México,  Tom Tom and Sport City Mexico.  Antonio Argüelles supported me with an air ticket for my friend and medical support Ariadna del Villar, who has crewed several of my swimmers, but now she crewed me and was in charge of my feedings.  Catalina Clavé supported me with my LAX air-ticket.  Several of my swimmers supported with the CCSF enrollment fee.  It was relatively easy to obtain the escort paddlers:  one of them, Robin Hipolito, and a friend of mine for many years, Claudio Majewsky, who actually lives in San Diego, CA.

Chely Bujaidar helped me with logistics of the trip and the swim.   Brad Howe was the official filmmaker.  Besides, although not in person on the boat, but in spirit a hundred of friends all around the world were following the swim through the GPS Tracker.

At the moment of the splash into water, all my negative thoughts faded and I started to focus only in each stroke after stroke and maintain aside Liz and maintain her speed.   The swim started round 9:30 pm in a completely darkness, but as the night advanced, we had a gorgeous moon and a starry sky.   It did not take us so long to adapt to the swim rhythm and the feeding stops, which were every 30 minutes.

My mind was busy all the time.  I was thinking about each one of the persons who supported me and motivated me to be there.  I also was thinking I must arrive to the other side and make my son Max Dilan feel proud of me.  In spite of not considering myself a fully religious person, several times I surprised myself praying a couple of “Our Father” orisons.

Occasionally, I entertained myself looking mindfully of what was happening on the boat and watching over if the Shark Shields were with the green light on, which meant they were working perfectly.

When dawn arrived, we had Catalina Island in sight.  Now, with daylight was easier for me to have a better look of Liz, and we exchanged a lot of smiles.   We took care of each other.   I always felt secure and protected by Liz, by the Outrider Crew and by or support team.  At the hour twelve, we were close to Catalina Island.  They were 37 minutes more to touch ground and to land on the Two Harbours Beach.  It was a huge shared happiness.   At the arrival we had a reception committee of a big shoal of small colorful fishes.   I was really glad that finally this shoal was the only wildlife we found along the swim.

Our official time of the swim was 12 hours 37 minutes.   My fears were overcome!! And… The Triple Crown completed!!

Today I know I would be able to swim this Channel 11 years ago.  Also I know the dreams have no expiration date to become true.   Each dream is very personal and it has its own timing of achievement.   My Catalina Channel Swim happened in the moment it should be and when I was ready for.  Today I feel very happy for materializing it, and I feel grateful with all the people who stringed along with me in this adventure.


Liz Fry, Marcia Cleveland, Carol Sing, Mauricio Menache, Antonio Argüelles, Brad Howe, Ariadna del Villar, Dora Cadena, Mauricio Cadena, Max Dilan López Toledano, Catalina Clavé, Celia Bujaidar, Martha Navarrete, Cytlalli Ibañez, José Luis Martínez, Mariel Hawley, Celia Peniche, Javier Alfaro, Clara López, Dulce Belmar, Enriqueta Nuñez, Martha Mireles, Claudio Majewski, Paula Selby, Bárbara Held, Grace Van Der Vil, Robin Hipólito, John Pittman and the crew of the Outrider, Catalina Channel Swimming Federation and the Canaleros.

Sport City, Remax México, Tom Tom, Clínica del Deporte MX and Nutrición Dinámica.