Rebecca Nevitt Plans English Channel Crossing for 50th Birthday

Swimming Around Manhattan
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Nevitt

By Abby Bergman, Swimming World College Intern.

If you head down to the beach in Santa Monica, California on any Sunday morning, you are likely to find Rebecca Nevitt training for her next cold-water marathon swim. Her bright pink cap is clearly visible in the blue water, often accompanied by other swimmers, who join her for short stretches of her long training swims. This summer, in celebration of her 50th year, Nevitt is taking on one of open water swimming’s greatest challenges; a solo crossing of the English Channel.

The English Channel is 21 miles across at its narrowest point and has historically taken swimmers anywhere from just under seven hours  to almost 29 hours to cross. According to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, for a crossing to be officially ratified, a swimmer must wear a standard textile suit and one cap, not receive support at any time during the crossing, and clear the water at both the start and finish. To date, there have been 2,256 successful solo crossings of the English Channel.

An experienced open-water swimmer, Nevitt has competed in many ocean races and has successfully completed some of the world’s most challenging swims, including the Maui Channel in 2010, the Catalina Channel in 2014, and a circumnavigation of Manhattan in 2015. Nevitt was also a member of the first ever all-women’s relay to complete a double crossing of the Catalina Channel, while also breaking the women’s record for a one-way relay.


Rebecca Nevitt trains along the coast in Santa Monica, CA. Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Nevitt

Nevitt got her start as a member of both the Lewiston YWCA Blue Sharks and the Lewiston Rec Weeeeeos AAU team, in her hometown of Lewiston, Maine and quickly fell in love with the sport, despite its short summer season. Her passion for the ocean was ignited at a young age, when her club coach would encourage the team to make all their times in practice by promising them a beach day in return.

“When I was 10 years old, he would also take the whole team across the lake in a row boat and have us swim back,” Nevitt describes. “You were basically on your own, but he would row around and check on you.” This type of training gave Nevitt confidence alone in open water from a very early age.

She made the natural transition to swimming in high school and college, serving as team captain at both Exeter Academy and Wellesley College, where she represented the team at NCAA Nationals in 1988.

“Rebecca’s greatest gift, then and now,” former Wellesley College coach Heather Barber says, “is her ability to make those around her better. Put simply, she is a model of shared excellence.” After taking a break from swimming following college, Nevitt dove back into the sport as a member of a Maui Channel relay in 1996. Participation in these relays inspired Nevitt to tackle the Maui Channel solo as her first real marathon swim.

“They said it was the roughest year ever.” Nevitt explains, “I had trained for a four-and-a-half-hour swim and it took me almost six-and-a-half-hours.”


Nevitt prepares for her Catalina Channel crossing. Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Nevitt

Nevitt is motivated by her love of the ocean and by the knowledge that swimming will help keep her healthy throughout life. “There was a woman who used to come to the pool when I was a lifeguard and she was 95 years old; the other lifeguards and I would say that someday we want to grow up to be like her,” Nevitt recounts. “She was still swimming, she was 95, she was super fit and I wanted to grow up to be her.”

As a working mother, Nevitt balances her commitment to her family and the demands of her sport. “I’m a parent, so I share mornings with my husband,” Nevitt explains. “I work out at the pool Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and in the summer, I swim in the ocean doing circuits on Wednesdays. I try to swim in the ocean on Sundays all year.” By training in the ocean even during the winter, Nevitt is able to build up a tolerance to cold water.


Rebecca Nevitt climbs aboard the boat following the successful two way Catalina Channel relay. Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Nevitt

Like many other marathon swimmers, Nevitt cannot remember when her English Channel dream began. She says that the idea was always in the back of her mind, but she didn’t believe it could become a reality until recently.

“I have planned my route to the English Channel slowly,” Nevitt explains. “Partly because I have a family, by doing generally one long swim each year, and by starting with swims nearby while my son is young, and doing the more distant trips and harder swims as he gets older.” Nevitt and her family will leave for England in just over a month, and it is likely she will add a successful English Channel Crossing to her already impressive resume.

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

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x