Open Water Phenom Becca Mann to Tackle Never-Been-Completed Swim as Her Legacy

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis

By Molly Griswold, Swimming World College Intern.

Colorful fish reflect off the beams of sunlight. Jellyfish slide past your body and through your fingers. Currents sweep you into the choppy waves. Sharks circle in the dark abyss below. Despite all of the unpredictable conditions of open water swimming, there is one certainty: Becca Mann wants to leave a daring legacy. 

Warming Up to the Challenge

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Mann

Mann’s love for open water started before she can even remember. She started her career by swimming in one mile open water races. But as soon as she realized there were longer distances, she demanded to be entered. She swam her first 10K at only seven years old. Mann tells the story of her experience:

“My parents agreed on the condition that my 9-year-old sister accompany and take care of me. Our mom told us to hold hands across the finish line. My sister was thrilled. I spent the whole three-plus-hour swim drafting off of her, and she’d stop every 20 minutes to make sure I was okay, feeding, etc. With about 100 meters to go, I sprinted past her, ran up to the finish shoot, and touched the pad first. Let’s just say that my sister still hasn’t let it go.”

Veering off Course

Mann continued swimming open water throughout her career, feeling a comfort in the unknown more so than the black line of the pool.

In 2011, at just thirteen years old, Mann was one of the youngest swimmers to qualify for Olympic Trials (both in open water and in the pool). She achieved fifth place finishes in both the 400 IM and 800 freestyle – an incredible feat at her age. When Mann missed her chance of making the 2012 Olympic Team by a few spots, she shifted her focus to open water training with the hopes of earning her first Olympic berth four years later. Unfortunately, she fell short again.

With one chance left to reverse her heartbreak in 2016, Mann was determined to make the team in the pool. She completely devoted herself to swimming, training constantly with little rest and giving her all to accomplish her goal that seemed to be within reach. Mann was swimming faster than ever heading into 2016 Olympic Trials, and all factors were tilting in her favor. However, the level of passion and drive she felt with every training session unfortunately was too much for her body to handle. Shortly before the 2016 Trials, Mann suffered herniated disks in her back and greatly struggled to compete. Unfortunately, her dream of qualifying for the 2016 US Olympic Team slipped through her fingers just like the jellyfish. 

Becca Mann gets in the zone before her race. Photo Courtesy: David Farr

Although the dedication Mann had devoted to her training did not lead to the anticipated results, she took some time away from the pool to focus on her ambitions outside of the pool. She has since returned to swimming with a renewed perspective.

Indeed, Mann’s experiences have enabled her to reflect on what she wants her career to represent.

Sighting Her Goals

Sometime between August 12 and 18 (depending on conditions), Mann will return to Hawaii in an attempt to swim the Maui Nui Triple Channel. This entails 64 kilometers from Maui to Molokai to Lanai, then back to Maui, lasting roughly fifteen to twenty hours. She will begin at sunset and swim through the night with hopes of finishing by sunset the next day. Although there have been attempts, no one has ever before completed the swim. 

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Map of Becca Mann’s 64 Kilometer swim that will take her approximately 15-20 hours. Photo Courtesy: Becca Mann

Mann is no stranger to Hawaii’s waters. At age ten, she swam the Maui Channel – a nearly 10 mile trek from Maui to Lanai. She first had the idea to attempt this swim after layovers in the Honolulu airport. As a little girl, she would gaze at the list of names of people who had swum the Hawaii channels. She thought, “I’m going to have my name in there someday.”

Although Mann jokes that she probably swam in place for most of the second half, many of her favorite swimming memories were created during this particular course. She was the youngest person to cross the channel, completing it in 6:46.26. A year later, Mann ran over to see her name at the bottom of the list – her smile shining brighter than the glow of the jellyfish below her. Mann was also a member of the fastest all-female relay to complete the same channel swim last year.

Race Ready

Although she has several notable swims under her belt, this new goal presents unique challenges. To prepare for her swim, Mann relies on her past training experiences with Randy Reese at the University of Southern California, Bob Bowman and Erik Posegay in Baltimore, and then later again with Bowman in Arizona. As for recent preparation, Mann says she has been doing her usual training. She laughs, “I figure that I’ve put in enough many miles the past 15 years!”

Planning the logistics of the swim outside of the water has been equally as difficult, as a reliable support crew is key. Harry Huffaker, the man who previously attempted the swim, offered her an entire binder filled with information to guide her efforts. Management, boats, nutritional support and paddlers are among the many things needed to even attempt a swim of this magnitude. Adequate funding poses an additional challenge, so Mann has created a fundraising page to help offset travel expenses and the costs of her safety crew.

To consider donating or to read more about the swim, please click here

Breakaway from Swimming

Although water has always been her first love, Mann shares an equal affection for a different art: writing. After retiring from swimming, she will continue to pursue her passion of the written word. Mann is a published author and is currently writing a screenplay. Some swimmers do their best thinking while in the water, so who knows what ideas Mann will come up with to end her chapter in swimming and begin writing her next. 

View this post on Instagram

My writers' room.

A post shared by Becca Mann 🌴 (@becca__mann) on

But before she turns the page, Mann reflects on why she has chosen to take on such an incredible endeavor.

“I’ve always had a very adventurous spirit, and my soul was itching for a challenge… something that has never been done before. Hawaii channel swimming has always meant so much to me, so I felt cathartic to do this swim eleven years after I completed the Maui Channel. That swim was a huge part of why I fell in love with open water swimming.”

Reaching for The Horizon

On August 10th, Mann captured bronze in the 1500 meter freestyle at the 2019 Pan American Games. Just days later, she will push herself onto her next challenge in Hawaii.

Ironically enough, Mann’s challenging undertaking is a representation of her swimming career. When she entered the water as a young girl, she swam with a sense of innocence and excitement as she warmed up to the challenge of open water swimming. As she grew older, life’s currents veered her off course. But because Mann was able to adapt to the unknown, she has gained perspective with a new sight on her goals.

When she crawls out of the water onto the beach after her 64 kilometer swim, this moment will signify more than just another race. It will embody the evolution from the young girl who swam just to see her name on a list in Hawaii to the strong, capable woman she is today. May her story encourage you to accomplish extraordinary dreams, no matter how out-of-reach they may seem.

Update: Mann will be swimming the Maui Nui Tri Channel on August 18th. She will be departing at 1 PM (7 PM EST). View the tracker that will go live at the start of her swim and will be updated every ten minutes here.

 

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

 

12 comments

  1. Carry Raab Loomis

    Sidney Loomis Stimac she’s swimming Maui to Molokai to Lanai and back to Maui

  2. avatar
    Lorang Strand

    Best of luck!
    I am excited to read about Beccas experience 😊🤸

  3. avatar

    So impressive for Rebecca!!!! Loved reading this Molly!!! Amazing❤️

  4. avatar
    Swimmer Fan

    Through the years I have watched my kids and their teammates swim ocean miles on early summer mornings. Just another way to experience the pure joy of the sport of swimming. Please give my best to Becca.

    • Leah Lotman

      Jillian Savage she did her first 10k at age 7. And people were upset about James swimming Alcatraz at 8 🙄

    • Jillian Savage

      Right? But back then we didn’t have the overprotective snowflake helicopter people with access to CPS at the tip of their fingers like we do now.

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