Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When swimmers step off of Catalina Island, they are always heading to the California mainland.

At night, the lights of Southern California are like tiny beacons of illumination guiding them to the shoreline, 20.2 miles in the distance.

Occasionally, the channel swimmers may not see the coastline – their ultimate goal – due to fog or clouds. The thought of swimming without actually seeing their goal in deep ocean waters can be intimidating. But swimmers do it by the dozens every year, whether in relays or as a solo adventure.

But the Out, Around, and Back marathon swimming relay will not be guided by GPS to the California mainland. When the first swimmer steps off Catalina Island, they will be heading in a completely unique direction.

They will be heading to Santa Barbara Island in one of the most ambitious and adventurous aquatic challenges on the West Coast of America.


The six members are swimming where no man or woman has ever swum before.

They will start somewhere on the western end of Catalina Island and swim about 25 miles to Santa Barbara Island. Then they will circumnavigate another 5 miles or so around Santa Barbara Island, and then return another 25+ miles back from Santa Barbara Island to Catalina Island. They estimate the unprecedented 53.8-mile (86.5 km) course will take them 30 hours to traverse.

Because of the uncharted waters that they will attempt (at least from a swimmer’s perspective), they will decide direction and strategies as they go. Where they will actually step off Catalina Island, what direction they will circumnavigate Santa Barbara Island, and what tangent lines they will take given the currents and tides will be decided on the fly in real time.

The swimmers include Becky Margulies of the Keller Cove Sea Otters/South End Rowing Club from Berkeley, California), Asha Allen of the Walnut Creek Masters/South End Rowing Club from Benecia, California, Dan Simonelli of Open Water Swim Academy/International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame from San Diego, California, Dave Van Mouwerik of the Santa Barbara Channel Swim Association from San Luis Obispo, California, Anthony McCarley of Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming and Half Century Club fame from Berwyn, Pennsylvania, and Scott Zacharda, a renowned swimming coach and runner from Frederick, Maryland.

Tracking of the relay Evan Morrison can be seen here.

Read about the outcome here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association