Right from the stroke of midnight, Hank went for the Catalina Channel record of 8:05:44, starting out fast under the guidance of his older brothers at the helm of his escort boat. The Three Wise Men charted a course that took advantage of a nice tidal push from Catalina Island to the California mainland under the watchful and seasoned eye of the renowned Forrest Nelson.
Throughout the swim in the dark of night, Hank was in a virtual stroke-for-stroke race against Todd’s 2009 standard in the 20-mile channel. By the time day broke, Hank was still running neck-and-neck with the record time.
There was a scare in the last mile when a leopard shark circled Hank and swam menacingly towards him. “I got nothing against sharks,” recalled Hank nonchalantly after the shark went off on its own course. “We are in their ecosystem. I don’t want to hurt them and I certainly don’t want them to harm me.”
After the brief scare, Hank immediately got back to the business at hand and continued his torrid pace of 64-67 strokes per minute against Todd’s 2009 standard. It was clear that it was going to come down to the wire. With 600 meters to go, his support team told Hank of his choice: go to the safer beach landing under the Terranea Resort and miss the record or take a chance by swimming the shorter, but riskier, route and try to scale the rocks in the surf.
“The rocks,” came Hank’s snap decision based on his years of surfing in some wild places in some wild conditions.
But the former Bear from California-Berkeley still had the ever-so-slight time advantage.
Still, with 200 meters to go, Hank had a great shot – he had more than 3 minutes to break Todd’s record, but he would have to slither through a thick kelp bed (see above photo), crashing surf to navigate through and some large rocks to scale. With 50 meters to go, time looked like it was running out on the former Stanford swimmer.
His support team identified a break in the rocky shoreline – and he had dozens of supporters clamoring down the shoreline cliffs yelling their support and checking their watches. A momentary break in the surf gave Hank a shot as he scrambled up the rocks like a nimble crab for an official time of 8:07:04 – which put him in the Top 5 Catalina Channel Swims of All-time, but just behind Todd.
Hank explains his swim below:
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