Stacy Fresonke at the 50th annual Seal Beach Rough Water Swim, 50 years after her initial swim in the race as an 11-year-old

Seal Beach And Catalina Island Déjà Vu

Courtesy of Mackenzie Miller, Seal Beach, California.

Stacy Fresonke is an open water swimmer from Seal Beach, California.   As an 11-year-old age group swimmer with the Seal Beach Swim Club, she participated in the inaugural Seal Beach Rough Water Swim in 1969

As a 14-year-old, she completed a tandem swim across the Catalina Channel in 1971 from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland together with Lynne Cox (age 14), Dennis Sullivan (age 14) and Andy Taylor (age 12) in 12 hours 44 minutes, coached by Ron Blackledge.

In the days of LORAN and when marathon swimmers around the world numbered in the dozens not in the tens of thousands, Fresonke and her teammates had dreams of swimming the Catalina Channel.  The quartet trained and trained seriously.

Sargeant Dennis Sullivan, now of the Long Beach Police Marine Patrol, recalled those days.  “Andy [Taylor] was only 12, but the rest of us were 14. We were prepared and not nervous. I just remembering swimming backwards for 3 hours near the end by Point Vicente. We started at White’s Point around 9 pm and finished together after 9 am at Point Vicente. I also remember drinking warm orange juice on the way of all things.”

Since the heyday of the 1950s, there was a long silence across the channel. After Ray Carmassi (#8 in 1952 in 18 hours 20 minutes), Jose Cortinas (#9 in 1952 in 28 hours 55 minutes and in 1953 in 32 hours 10 minutes), Florence Chadwick (#10 in 1952 in 13 hours 47 minutes), Roy Sutter (#11 in 1953 in 16 hours 38 minutes), Tom Park (#12 in 1954 in 13 hours 25 minutes and 1956 in 9 hours 10 minutes), Bill Slater (#13 in 1955 in 18 hours 54 minutes, in 1956 in 17 hours 30 minutes, in 1957 in 15 hours 38 minutes), Daisy Murchie (#14 in 1955 in 17 hours 4 minutes and in 1956 in 15 hours 40 minutes), Amy Hiland (#15 1955 in 20 hours 7 minutes and in 1958 in 24 hours 25 seconds), Ramon Ocana (#16 in 1956 in 15 hours 54 minutes), Leo Vigil (#17 in 1957 in 17 hours 14 minutes), Jason Zirganos (#18 in 1957 in 17 hours 0 minutes), Greta Andersen (#19 in 1958 in 10 hours 49 minutes and 26 hours 53 minutes for a two-way and in 1959 in 12 hours 45 minutes), Stewart Evans (#20 in 1959 in 20 hours 55 minutes), and Joanne Florentine (#21 in 1959 in 15 hours 4 minutes), crossings of the Catalina Channel did not attract anyone.

But a seed had been planted in the heads of four young teenagers from Seal Beach. All four were competitive pool swimmers and they could easily see Santa Catalina Island from their hometown. They swam on the one of first tandem swims off the Pacific coast on August 14th 1971.

Fresonke remembers the feedings well. “My father was a dentist and he fashioned the first sports bottle that he threw to us in the water. We all swam together, although we do not remember where we would eventually land [back in the pre-GPS era].”

Fresonke celebrated the 50th Seal Beach Rough Water Swim last week along with a new generation of channel swimmers.

Mackenzie Miller finishing on Sandy Beach on Oahu after a 14 hour 45 minute crossing of the Molokai Channel

Mackenzie Miller, who has already crossed the longer, warmer Molokai Channel in Hawaii, is looking forward to following in Fresonke’s footsteps to crossing the Catalina Channel – based on similar training in Seal Beach.  “This was my first time swimming the annual Seal Beach Rough Water Swim.  I was nervous, but once at the beach, I saw how calm the water was and how perfect the weather conditions were.  I felt a lot better.

Once we were informed about the water temperature being 68°F (20°C), I was STOKED.  It was such a great experience swimming straight out to sea with an escort and knowing there is a huge group of swimmers out there doing the same thing, swimming right alongside.”

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