While the Channel Swimming Association was honoring its heroes and heroines of the 2012 season in the Dover Town Hall, their Pacific Ocean colleagues of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation were honoring its own champions at its annual banquet in San Pedro, California.

The following swimmers and relays were officially ratified as members of the Catalina Channel swimming fraternity:

A standing ovation was given to Grace van der Byl not only for her tireless efforts as a volunteer observer, paddler and kayaker, but also for her record-setting solo swim of 7 hours 27 minutes from Catalina Island to the California mainland.

1. Jaime Caballero (Spain) 9:31:30
2. Ernie Hoftyzer (USA) 9:36:43
3. Laurie Jo Hall-Cueto Arreola (USA) 9:15:30
4. Anna Carin-Nordin (Sweden) 12:40:06
5. Chris Geer (USA) 9:56:14
6. Miquel Suñer Comalat (Spain) 8:11:13
7. Eddie Irwin (Ireland) 9:39:21
8. Maria Selina Moreno Pasagali (Spain) 11:11:53
9. Dave Van Mouwerik (USA) 12:09:07*
10. Sue Free (USA) 11:23:38*
11. Hendrik Meerman (USA) 12:48:30*
12. Adam Moine (USA) 9:14:11
13. Dan Boyle (USA) 10:55:40
14. Laura Lopez-Bonilla (Spain) 14:31:36
15. Mariel Hawley Davila (Mexico) 11:27:28
16. Monica Bender (USA) 9:51:14
17. Jaimie Monahan (USA) 13:28:41
18. Ned Denison (Ireland) 8:50:04
19. Douglas McConnell (USA) 12:41:13*
20. Roger Finch (South Africa) 9:45:02*
21. Gabor Molnar (Hungary) 9:00:48
22. Bridgette Hobart Janeczko (USA) 11:27:25*
23. Grace van der Byl (USA) 7:27:25
24. Adam Walker (UK) 12:15:15

* members of the Catalina Channel Half Century Club

In addition to the 23 solo swims during the 2012 season, the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation also ratified retroactively the following five swims:

1. Daisy Murchie (USA) 15:40:00 on September 2, 1956
2. Leo Vigil (Cuba) 17:14:45 on July 22, 1957
3. Captain Stewart Evans (USA) 20:55:00 on August 26, 1958
4. Greta Andersen (USA) 11:07:30 on October 16, 1959
5. Isaac Papke (USA) 12:45:00 on June 30, 1963

There were also 10 relay teams that successfully crossed the 20.2-mile channel formerly known as the San Pedro Channel:

1. Tripod Team 1 (Tom Cook, Kelley Schall, Tanya MacLean, Steven Coopersmith, Lynn Kubasek, Paula Selby) 13:16:41
2. Tripod Team 2 (Dan Simonelli, Julian Rusinek, Marc Horwitz, Natalie Kreizinger, Carol Hayden, Kim Miller) 13:16:41
3. Tripod Team 3 (Karl Jacobs, Thomas Johnson, Kenny Jacobs, Patsee Ober, Marta Gaughen, Yafa Minazad) on 13:16:41
4. Rocking Hot Chicks & One Dude (Cindy Meyer, John York, Heidi Thomas, Ashley Josephson, Carol Sing, Teri Clavell) 12:17:20
5. Swell Guys (Bill Crane, Stephen Cross, Steve Frantz, Steve Dockstader, Roger Renstrom, Rich Henry) 16:15:05
6. Wild One Women Women’s Relay Team (age record age 70 and over) 16:15:05 (Carol Sing, Debbie Peckham, Betsy Jordan, Janett Lamott, Dudley Rockwell, Sandra Vickers)
7. Commotion on the Ocean (Peter Hayden, Vanessa Mesia, Tim Davies, Ben Barham, Julian Rusinek, Karl Jacobs) 14:11:26
8. CO and CA Kelp Patties (Charlotte C. Plummer, Averill Sehler, Jerry Orten, Michelle Poole, Howard Burns, Cherie Edborg) 10:07:53
9. Just Keep Swimming (Steven Klein, PK Gauchen, Sherry Winston, Alicia Bartley, Robyn Beresh, Kate Martin) 13:08:19
10. San Francisco Bay Dolphins (Rachel Elginsmith, Jesse Czelusta, David Cameron, C. Brian Elginsmith, Paige Coulam, Leigh Fonseca) 11:45:59

As there is every year, the stories, drama, courage and support team coordination behind each and every swim were too numerous to recount in a single day or single article, but the ambiance was always enlightening and inspiring. People from every walk of life, from 17 to their 70’s, male and female, veterans and newcomers showed they had the fortitude, commitment and tools to cross one of the world’s major channels.

Forrest Nelson, president of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, pointed out that these swimmers are uniquely special. “Most humans cannot comprehend the courage of what these people have, to cross this channel is something that requires so much of each individual.” He gave credit to a variety of individuals and noted a number of trends:

1. The number of foreign swimmers continues to increase with swimmers from Spain, Hungary, Ireland, Sweden, Mexico, Great Britain and South Africa.

2. Paula Selby, one of the volunteer Federation board members, made sure that two qualified and trained observers were available for each and every one of the 40 attempts. A total of 45 observers volunteered their time – and lost at least one night of sleep on the high seas.

3. Jeff Beeler and Becky Jackson-Beeler continue to provide detailed training for all observers that include CPR and AED certification.

4. Neil and Grace van der Byl established a matchmaking service for swimmers to meet up with available kayakers, paddlers and other crew members.

5. Margaret Clark spent countless hours updating the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation website that will include the recently updated history of the channel by Dr. Penny Lee Dean from 1927 through 2012.

6. John York managed the Dottie York Scholarship Fund that was created to assist those who wish to cross the channel, but need financial assistance to do so.

7. Don Van Cleve continues to ably serve as the hard-working Secretary of the Federation.

8. Dr. Dean spent innumerable hours updating the Catalina Channel history with historical facts covering the last 10 years. She will continue to write the channel history as it happens.

Dr. Dean talked about a number of heroes including Daisy Murchie who swam from Avalon to Long Beach in 17 hours 4 minutes in 1955. “At the age of 39, she became the first woman to cross the Catalina Channel. This pioneer also swam the Salton Sea a few times as promotion for a neighboring city. She swam around Atlantic City with Tom Parks and worked out in Alamitos Bay with Greta Andersen.”

Dr. Dean introduced Tom Clardy who became, in 1982, the first amputee to cross the Catalina Channel (note: blind King Benny Nawahi was the first disabled swimmer to cross). Clardy lost his leg as a police officer when he was hit by a car. Clardy recalls, “Swimming made me feel better. I got hit hard physically as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam and then again as a police officer. It was then when I lost my leg. Swimming saved me. The more I move, the better I feel. The less I move, the worse I feel. So swimming is great for me.”

Ernie Hoftyzer said of his 9 hour 36 minute crossing, “I prepared physically but not mentally on my first attempt last year. When I got to the 10-hour mark, I thought the cheeseburger sounds pretty good, and got out. It was then that Tina Neill told me, ‘The island will always be there.‘”

Chris Geer of Long Beach, California said of his 9 hour 56 minute crossing, “I quit swimming in high school because I hated it. Later, I started running and did marathons. But in my 30’s, I got back in the pool and realized that I still hated it. But then I fell in love with open water swimming – and this has been great.”

Dave Van Mouwerik, another tireless volunteer of the California Channel Island community, said of his 12 hour 9 minute crossing, “I wanted to join this club for a while…”

Sue Free said of her 11 hour 23 minute crossing with a huge smile on her face as a member of the Half Century Club, “[Swimming Catalina] seemed like a thing to do for my 50th birthday.”

Hendrik Meerman said of his 12 hour 48 minute crossing, “It is a long path to get here, but there are many people who help you along the way. I didn’t make it last year, but I was able to get it done this year and finish business. Thank you very much for the support.” Meerman joined the Half Century Club as it just turned 50 years old right before his crossing.

Adam Moine said, “I didn’t know anything about Catalina Channel but the Dottie York Scholarship and Signet Marine in Redondo Beach helped me with their much-appreciated support.”

Monica Bender, a young hometown girl of San Pedro, said of her 9 hour 51 minute crossing, “It was quite an experience at the age of 17. People usually don’t do it at my age. The most interesting thing about my swim was how it was not planned very well. But my dad pulled it all together in time. My mom kayaked for me and my brother swam with me, at least for a while. I had a lot of people there at the finish for me. It made all the pain worthwhile.”

Bridgette Hobart Janeczko, another new member of the Half Century Club who grew up in lakes in upstate New York, said of her 11 hour 27 minute crossing, “Along with Sue Hall, there were two of us who had the idea of swimming across the Catalina Channel at the age of 50. I really wanted to climb up the rocks [on the California coastline at the finish]. I was fortunate to be able to swim on my 50th birthday and I am really glad I could be here.”

Grace van der Byl, the popular new record holder for her Catalina to mainland swim of 7 hours 27 minutes, said with tears in her eyes, “I am already crying. I am a swim coach. We do it because we love this, not because of the money. I was encouraged to apply to the Dottie York Scholarship. I want to swim this channel in her honor, in order to make her proud. I just didn’t want to swim across, I wanted to make it special. I have been an observer and paddler [for others]. Each crossing made me want to swim this channel even more. I didn’t feel like I did this [crossing] by myself, I did feel like I did this together with all of you.”

Only 4 of the 5 sub-8-hour solo swims across the channel.

Forrest Nelson summed up the ceremony by recalling “the raw emotion that is shown out in the channel. There are tears shed in those goggles. But there is also the spanning of generations, from the youth of the 70-year-old women. I hope we will all be there too at that age. I also enjoy seeing the youthful glow of Monica Bender who shares a remarkable likeness of Lynne Cox in her face.

This is a year-round sport. It is a pleasure to work with you all. You are a fantastic group.”

Four of the five swimmers who have swum across the Catalina Channel under 8 hours were present at the ceremonies and are pictured above: John York (7:41:14), Grace van der Byl (7:27), Penny Dean (7:15:55), Peter Huisveld (7:37:31). Karen Reeder was the only sub-8 swimmer missing.

Photos courtesy of board member Paula Selby are posted