Courtesy of Charlotte Brynn.
White explains, “Vermont is a landlocked state. Yet, it is blessed with many wondrous freshwater lakes, including river-fed lakes like Champlain and Memphremagog, and glacially carved, majestic, pristine lakes sitting atop their watershed, like Willoughby and Crystal.
Many of these lakes, especially in the three-county area known as the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont that are distinguished by light boat traffic and tranquility.
For centuries, Vermont presented a perfect place to swim. In the advent of the 21st century, the lakes of Vermont have become a hotbed for open water swimmers, many of whom have grown up on these lakes to become world-class ultra-marathon swimmers as well as cold water swimmers, winter swimmers, ice swimmers, and adventure swimmers.
The mission of the Vermont Open Water Swimming Hall of Fame is to recognize those Vermonters and those with substantial connections to Vermont who have achieved greatness in the open water and those who make significant, awe-inspiring contributions to their success.”
Chairperson and 2017 inductee Charlotte Brynn describes the process and procedures to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, “The inductees are recognized in three different areas in the sport:
1. Marathon Open Water Swimmers where a marathon swim is defined as an epic (long course) swim of 10 km or greater.
2. Contributors including Pilots, Crew, Kayakers, and Coaches, etc.
3. Cold Water Swimmers, Winter Swimmers, Ice Swimmers of any distance in water temperatures 5°C or less, and Adventure Swimmers.”
Brynn announced the 2018 Vermont Open Water Swimming Hall of Fame inductees. “These inductees have paved the way for the continued growth and longevity of Vermont open water swimming in Vermont through their contributions and achievements in open water swimming in Vermont and lakes, rivers and seas around the world. We applaud their commitment to the sport, to their passion for mentoring newcomers and supporting new events, swim courses and the search for new challenges.”
Deborah J. Beier, born 30 November 1952 – died 24 April 2017
Deborah J. Beier was an integral contributor in the growth of Vermont Open Water Swimming from 2009 onwards when she began kayak support of open water swimmers based in Vermont. Her can-do attitude and kayak support was valuable to many open water swimmers in Vermont whether it be spotting, kayak support or a friendly wave on the lake during marathon swim training, marathon swims or ice swims. In 2009 she was a kayaker for the first Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association (NEKOWSA) event, she continued to kayak for NEKOWSA swims in support of Paula Yankauskas from 2009- 2016, including multiple Son of a Swims, Border Buster swims and Swim The Kingdom Weeks. She was well-known for her kayak crew – Cat Stanley as figurehead on the front of her kayak along with her dog Picard. Her kayak support extended far beyond Vermont waters. She was part of the first Vermont contingent of swimmers and kayakers that journeyed to Arizona for SCAR in 2014, and she returned there in 2015 and 2016 kayaking for Paula Yankauskas. She also kayaked Swim The Suck in Tennessee in 2016 and made significant crew contributions. Most notable, her crew support of Paula Yankauskas’s English Channel crossing in 2016 enabled her to set the record for the oldest American woman to swim the English Channel at the time. In 2011 she was crew for Charlotte Brynn during the first 25.2 mile In Search of Memphre, which re-established international swimming on Lake Memphremagog at a time it was widely believed that the border was closed to swimming. Deborah crewed yet another record-breaking swim in 2014 when she and Cynthia Needham crewed for Paula Yankauskas during In Search of Memphre when Yankauskas became the oldest swimmer to make the crossing. Beier and Yankauskas were a team and a force as they took on lakes, rivers and sea channels together. Beier passed away in 2017, a sad loss for Vermont Open Water Swimming.
Greg O’Connor, 48 of Natick, Massachusetts
Greg O’Connor is a marathon swimmer, ice swimmer and contributor. For many years, O’Connor has been a charismatic organizer of Boston Light Swim, the oldest marathon swim in North America, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association, a co-founder of Vampire Swim, and a regular L Street Bathhouse swimmer in Boston. He is an accomplished and recognized ultra-marathon swimmer, having completed the Catalina Channel, MIMS, END-WET, P2P across the Massachusetts Bay and set the co-record in the Boston Light 16-mile double crossing for which he has been acknowledged by IMSHOF and WOWSA. His quiet presence in Vermont has been central to the growth and success of open water swimming in Vermont. He was the very first person to sign up for the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in its inaugural year in 2009. He has been swimming and piloting patrol boats at Kingdom Swim regularly ever since. When Elaine Kornbau Howley helped establish In Search of Memphre in 2011 to re-launch international swimming in Lake Memphremagog, Greg was the second person to sign on for this 25-mile swim, and one of only four swimmers to complete the swim that first year, overcoming fierce headwinds throughout the night. He has been a pilot for The Search on numerous years since that inaugural swim. When winter swimming was launched in Vermont, Greg was there as one of the first swimmers to sign on and has been a strong force on the Organizing Committee of the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival, helping to assure that winter swimming in Vermont continued beyond its first year to become an annual event that continues to draw swimmers from all over North America and Europe.
Elizabeth Fry, 57 of Westport, Connecticut
Elizabeth Fry is a marathon swimmer and contributor. Fry is a living legend in the international community of open water swimmers. She completed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming and has also completed the Reverse Triple. She has double crossed the English Channel (swimming the English Channel a total of 6 times) and double-crossed the Ederle Swim. She has swum across the Molokai Channel in Hawaii and the Tsugaru Channel in Japan and the Round Jersey circumnavigation swim. She double crossed each of the four lakes in the Arizona SCAR Swim Challenge, an unprecedented feat that has yet to be repeated. She made history in Vermont waters, when she joined the inaugural In Search of Memphre in 2011. Battling fierce headwinds through the night, she became the first of four to complete that 25-mile international cross-border swim. In doing so, she broke through the belief that the border was closed to international swimming and re-opened this iconic route for the many more who have followed since. That first year of Memphre, five of the nine solo swimmers did not make it. Liz signed on to return the next year and mentor those who failed to complete the first year. Bill Shipp, David Dammerman, and Jennifer Dutton successfully completed despite another year of strong winds. Liz has always been eager to help marathon swimmers as they take on greater challenges. In doing so, Liz has served as a mentor to Kingdom Swimmers looking to swim ultra distances beyond the fresh waters of Northeast Kingdom lakes, helping them to realize their dreams of channel crossings and circumnavigations in bigger bodies of water.
Elaine Kornbau Howley, 40 of Waltham, Massachusetts
Elaine Kornbau Howleyis a marathon swimmer, ice swimmer and contributor and a powerful force in the world of open water swimming as a swimmer, an organizer, a writer, and support crew. She was the 32nd person to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, is the co-record holder of the 16-mile Boston Light double, and completed the 34-mile Lake Pend Oreille crossing in 2014. She is Co-Director of Boston Light and co-founder of the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association. She is a freelance writer. Her articles on open water swimming have been frequently published. Elaine has been a constant and major presence in Vermont for many years and in many capacities. She has been an early and frequent participant in the 10-mile distance at Kingdom Swim as well as the Willoughby Swim. In 2011. she was a co-founder of In Search of Memphre which re-established international swimming on Lake Memphremagog at a time it was widely believed that the border was closed to swimming. She was one of only four who completed the swim that first year, overcoming fierce headwinds throughout the night. She went on to swim across Lake Tahoe in California and Loch Ness in Scotland to become the second person to complete the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims. She is an ice swimmer, was one of the 41 Pioneers to participate in the first winter swim on Lake Memphremagog under daunting conditions in 2015. Elaine has been a regular, badass and cheerful support (crew and pilot) during The Search and at Kingdom Swim, and served as an observer for Sarah Thomas’ 104-mile world record breaking swim on Lake Champlain in 2017. As a writer, she has chronicled some of the grand history of the storied professional and amateur swimming the length of Lake Memphremagog, The Monster Within and Without in Outdoor Swimmer. and has written frequently about swimmers and swimming in the Kingdom.
Steven Muñatones, 55 of Huntington Beach, California
Steven Muñatones is a marathon swimmer and contributor. It is hard to imagine an international open water swimming community without Muñatones and his work for the Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Openwaterpedia, WOWSA, the Global Open Water Swimming Conferences and others. Steven is an indefatigable presence reporting on the big and the small of open water swimming news around the world, round the clock, seven days a week and quietly assembling an online historical record. His presence and voice regarding Vermont’s open water swimming scene may not be so well recognized, but his impact should not be underestimated. He has been a competitor and covered the professional swim, la Traversée internationale du lac Memphrémagog. swimming the length of Lake Memphremagog in 1984 in 9 hours 16 minutes and 9 hours 13 minutes in 1985. And, he was there right from the start covering the first Kingdom Swim in 2009, the establishment of Be Kind to Your Yacker Week in April, the formation of NEKOWSA on a very cold weekend in January 2010, the inauguration of the Willoughby Swim, the re-opening of international swimming between Newport and Magog, In Search of Memphre, the creation of the NEK Swim Week in 8 lakes over the course of 9 days totaling 46 miles, the first winter swim and the cutting of a two-lane, 25-meter pool in the ice of Memphremagog, and the opening of The Clubhous in Derby, Vermont in 2013 as the nerve center for open water swimming and winter swimming in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Steve’s coverage has been broad, frequent, relentless and unequivocally supportive. He identified Kingdom Swim as one of the top 100 swims in the world, Willoughby and In Search of Memphre as two of the top 100 swims in the US, and Memphremagog and Willoughby among two of the top 50 open water swimming venues in the Americas. Steven had such a large & positive impact on Vermont Open Water Swimming, he has offered encouragement and support to swimmers and event directors, volunteers and organizers in such a way that has exponentially aided the growth of our great Vermont open water community.
Shelley Taylor-Smith, 56 of Perth, Australia
Shelley Taylor-Smith is a marathon swimmer. Shelley is a pool and open water swimming legend from Western Australia who has been inducted in both the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2009 and the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1989 for her exploits as a seven-time world professional marathon swimming champion with the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation. She held the professional women’s No.1 world ranking from 1988 to 1995. She set the world record for the 48 km (28.5-mile) Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in 1995, a record which stood until recently. She earned an unprecedented overall No.1 world ranking on the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation circuit for both men and women in 1991. Shelley swam Traversee International du Lac Memphremagog (25 miles between Newport, Vermont and Magog, Quebec) for many years in the hey-day of this storied professional swim in the 1980’s and 1990’s, repeatedly winning among the females, taking down many male competitors in the process and winning the swim outright one year. She holds the female record of 8 hours 37 minutes. She was an iconic presence on Lake Memphremagog with her wonderful, fiery competitive spirit. You simply cannot talk about the history of this iconic professional swim without talking about Shelley Taylor-Smith and her presence on this lake. She also has a ferry boat named after her in Western Australia.
The individuals of the Class of 2018 join the following 10 members of the inaugural Class of 2017:
Bethany Bosch, 32 of Wallingford, Vermont
As a marathon swimmer, Bethany Bosch became the first Vermont resident to successfully swim the 21-mile English Channel in 2014. Her marathon swimming career started as the slowest swimmer in the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in 2011. She returned in 2012 and completed the swim faster by one hour 30 minutes. Bosch completed the 25-mile In Search of Memphre Swim in 2013.
Charlotte Brynn, 51 of Stowe, Vermont
As a marathon swimmer, Charlotte Brynn completed two legs of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming in 2014 (i.e., 20-mile Catalina Channel and 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim) that followed previous setbacks. She completed the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in 2010. In 2011, she was one of only 4 (out of 9) to complete the inaugural 25-mile In Search of Memphre in the face of 25 to 30 mph headwinds. Brynn won the 25 km Border Busters event in 2016. As an ice swimmer, Brynn completed two Ice Miles in temperatures below 5°C in a normal swimsuit. As an adventure swimmer, Brynn completed more swims than anyone in Vermont waters: Champlain, Memphremagog, NEK Swim Week, Skinner Island, Île Ronde, and Georgeville or Bust as new swims on Lake Memphremagog. As a contributor and coach, Brynn is the founder and inspiring coach of the Stowe Distance Swimmers which has produced more marathoners than any other program in Vermont.
Gary Golden, 62 of Burlington, Vermont
As a contributor and crew, Gary Golden has kayaked at nearly every Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association event since 2010 including paddling the length of Lake Memphremagog in support of In Search of Memphre in 2015 and 2016.
Don Houghton, Jr., 70 of Craftsbury, Vermont
As a contributor and crew, Don Houghton, Jr. kayaked and piloted at nearly every Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association event since 2010, including paddling the length of Lake Memphremagog in support of In Search of Memphre in 2016 for Craig Lenning’s solo swim in 2015, and travelling to Arizona repeatedly to support swimmers in four marathon swims over four days at S.C.A.R.
Cynthia Needham, 69 of Hyde Park, Vermont
Cynthia Needham is a Contributor – Crew and kayaker in numerous Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association events including Sarah Thomas’ 50-mile double crossing In Search of Memphre in 2013 and Charlotte Brynn’s many swims on Lake Memphremagog and on seven marathon swims (and attempts) from California to New York and England.
Bill Shipp, 56 of Mitchelville, Maryland
As a marathon swimmer, Bill Shipp completed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming during 2014 and 2015 (i.e., 21-mile English Channel, 20-mile Catalina Channel, and 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim). Shipp’s Vermont record started with the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in 2010. He then overcame cancer, returned in 2011 for another 10-mile Kingdom Swim and attempted the inaugural 25-mile In Search of Memphre. Shipp completed In Search of Memphre in 2012, was the top male at the inaugural 15-mile Border Buster in 2014 and was top male in the 25 km Border Buster in 2016.
Chris Steele, 60 of Derby, Vermont
As a contributor and crew, Chris Steele piloted and led the fleet of patrol boats supporting the inaugural Kingdom Swim in 2009. He served as the First Rear Admiral of the fleet from 2010 to 2012 and piloted a boat in the first two In Search of Memphre swims through fierce weather conditions. He has supported every Kingdom Swim that his boat was in the water since 2009.
Gail Steele, 60 of Derby, Vermont
As a contributor and crew, Gail Steele kayaked and crewed at all but one of the Kingdom Swims since its founding in 2009 and crewed with her husband Chris Steele at the first two In Search of Memphre swims.
Sarah Thomas, 33 of Conifer, Colorado
As a marathon swimmer, Sarah Thomas became the first person to complete a double crossing of Lake Memphremagog, swimming 50 miles in 30 hours in 2013. As an out-of-stater, this swim redefined marathon swimming in Vermont. She returned to Lake Memphremagog in 2014, winning the 15-mile Border Buster. Thomas is a world-renowned marathon swimmer who in 2016 swam 80 miles the length of Lake Powell, the longest lake swim in history.
Paula Yankauskas, 62 of Hyde Park, Vermont
As a marathon swimmer, Paula Yankauskas is the oldest American woman to swim the 21-mile English Channel which she complete in 2016. She is the oldest person to swim the 25-mile length of Lake Memphremagog in the In Search of Memphre in 2014. Her swims include repeated Kingdom Swims, repeated NEK Swim Weeks, the 15-mile Border Busters, and the 25 km Border Busters in 2016.
Phil White, 70-something of Newport, Vermont
Phil White is the co-founder of the Vermont Open Water Swimming Hall of Fame and the Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association, established and runs the Kingdom Games, the WOWSA World 10-mile Swimming Championships and the Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival, created the Clubhous and Be Kind to Your Yacker Week, served as an escort pilot on many swims, and was selected as the Newport Daily Express Person of the Year for 2013.
Ned Denison, 5 of Cork, Ireland
Ned Denison has completed dozens of channel, marathon, ice and prison island swims and serves as the Chairman of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
White explains the background and purpose of establishing the Hall of Fame.
Co-founder Ned Denison [shown above] describes how individuals are nominated for and eligible for induction in the Hall of Fame. “Eligibility is open to residents of the State of Vermont or those with a substantial connection to Vermont at the time of their achievements. It is open to open water swimmers who use wetsuits or these with physical issues which necessitate the use of appropriate aids. In addition to achievements and contributions, the character of the individual (or organization) will be taken into account during selection for induction or to remain an Honoree.
The honorees shall vote annually on new inductees. They will also manage the Vermont Open Water Swimming Hall of Fame and develop and evolve rules and procedures for the conduct of the Hall going forward.”
Fry summed up what the inductees think, “I love swimming in the beautiful lakes of Vermont and nothing compares to the tremendous spirit and passion of the open water swimming community in the Green Mountains State.”
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