Zach Margolis’ course across the Catalina Channel from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California coast in Palos Verdes

Zach Margolis: Past, Present And Future In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Manhattan Island, New York City.

Zach Margolis led the international field of 16 swimmers to win the 20 Bridges Swim, a 45.8 km circumnavigation swim around Manhattan Island on June 1st.

His strong 7 hour 33 minute victory was his third successful leg of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.

Previously in 2016, he crossed the 32.3 km Catalina Channel from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland in 11 hours 4 minutes at the age of 27.  In 2018, he completed a 33.2 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France in 12 hours 17 minutes.

For good Oceans Seven measure, Margolis also completed a tandem swim across the Strait of Gibraltar together with Attila Mányoki in 4 hours 9 minutes in 2017.

Zach Margolis’ course across the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco

He provided a first-person account of his accomplishments and future:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you like the 20 Bridges Swim?

Zach Margolis: It was a great swim. Super well-organized, they make the logistics easy by coordinating boats for you.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How is the 20 Bridges Swim different from the other two legs of the Triple Crown?

Zach Margolis: By far, it was the least stressful swim of of the three. Since I knew it was current-assisted, I didn’t worry about my pace or timing. I was a tad worried about the water quality, even though it’s a mostly freshwater swim (as opposed to the extremely salty Catalina and English channels), because I’d heard from past 20 Bridges swimmers that their stomachs were upset for a few weeks after the swim. So during the swim, I made extra sure to keep my mouth shut when I had my head down (except for when breathing, obviously).

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Did you eat the same during 20 Bridges Swim as you did across the English Channel and Catalina Channel?

Zach Margolis: Yeah mostly, I tend to use Vitamin Water, and a rotating assortment of energy snacks, like Clif Bars and energy gummies. This time, I had more Larabars than Clif bars, it’s all kind of the same. Since it was freshwater, I didn’t need to use mouthwash like I normally do.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How did you pace yourself during all three Triple Crown swims?

Zach Margolis: I try to find a sustainable pace and just keep it up, so I kind of just hop in the water and go for it. To me, there’s no sense in breaking out into a sprint since the whole thing is going to take hours anyways. For the English Channel, I started out a little too fast and then pooped out, so that was in the back of my mind when hopping in for the 20 Bridges, so I made sure to not go out too hard once I hopped in.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was your lowest point – mentally and physically – during the three Triple Crown swims?

Zach Margolis: Somewhere in the middle of the English Channel, I hit a low point. I realized that land was getting a little farther away, that I’d “missed” the horn or whatever they call the tip of France. My captain, Andy King, gave me some stern words and threatened to pull me if I didn’t focus. Once I got out, he admitted he wasn’t actually going to pull me, but in that moment, I definitely believed him. So that moment when I believed he was going to pull me, that was my lowest point. I wish I didn’t need to have the pep talk at all, but I’m so glad Andy knew what he was doing to get me out of my funk.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was your highest point – mentally and physically – during the three Triple Crown swims?

Zach Margolis: Catalina was such a high for me. It was my first channel swim ever so I was nervous and excited and all of those feelings. Then, there were some worries it might be cancelled.  One of my mentors, Amy Gubser, had literally just swam it the day before and had some really rough conditions.  For both days, there is a lot of wind and a small craft advisory.  When I showed up to the dock, unsure if it would be cancelled, the boat crew were fairly nonchalant about it, so we did go out and attempt the swim.  I did have some rough water for the first half of the swim (nearly my entire crew, including some seasoned observers, go seasick).  So once I got out of the water, having gotten through all of that, I was just so happy. 

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Where and how do you train in San Francisco (pool and open water and dryland training)?

Zach Margolis: I swim a few times a week in the San Francisco Bay at the South End Rowing Club, and I also train at Hamilton Pool with the Tsunami masters team. Since last year, I’ve worked with a trainer about once or twice a month for some strength and mobility training on land as well.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What would be your dream swim (of any distance)?

Zach Margolis: That’s a great question. I haven’t come up with my own original swim course, and I don’t have one special swim in mind. I do have a ‘what if’ list of swims I’d love to do eventually, on no particular timeline or anything. There’s anything in Hawaii, like the Maui-Lanai relay, there’s the Santa Monica to San Pedro swim that Amy Gubser did recently, there’s the mainland Spain to Ibiza swim that Tita Llorens did.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you have any swims planned for the rest of the year?

Zach Margolis: Yeah, I’m really excited for the Tahoe Relay this July, it’s such a blast. And then solo-wise, I am training for the North Channel this September.

Official 20 Bridges Swim Results:

  1. Zach Margolis (30, San Francisco, USA) 7:33:03 [Triple Crown achieved]
  2. James Janik (42, Colorado, USA) 7:35:43 [Triple Crown achieved]
  3. Avishag Turek (43, Shefayim, Israel) 7:39:12 [Triple Crown achieved]
  4. Fiona Mildner (39, East Sussex, Great Britain) 7:41:26
  5. Elizabeth Almond (44, Georgia, USA) 7:43:53
  6. Melanie Holland (43, Norfolk, Great Britain) 7:45:37
  7. Anna-Carin Nordin (47, JÃttendal, Sweden) 7:50:37 [Triple Crown achieved]
  8. Mark Sheridan (44, Kent, Great Britain) 7:52:27 [Triple Crown achieved]
  9. Cynthia Werhane (49, Oregon, USA) 7:52:45
  10. Steve Stievenart (41, Hauts de France, France) 7:55:09
  11. Gerald Devin (53, Wicklow, Ireland) 8:11:22
  12. Melissa Blaustein (30, California, USA) 8:14:55
  13. Janice Burton (55, Maryland, USA) 8:15:11
  14. Samiir Wheaton (48, Rajasthan, India) 8:24:53
  15. Jessi Harewicz (35, Vancouver, Canada) 8:37:34 [Triple Crown achieved]
  16. Tim Garrett (55, New South Wales, Australia) 8:40:49

For more information about the 20 Bridges Swim around Manhattan Island, visit www.nyopenwater.org.

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