Six Men In Their Eighties Break Record As Oldest To Swim Across Catalina Channel


It took a little more than 12 hours, but six men between 80 and 85 years old became the oldest people to swim across the Catalina Channel Thursday with a relay swim.

The men – Don Baker, Bob Beach, Bob Best, Graham Johnston, Dave Radcliff and Bill Spore – swam across the treacherous waterway in 12 hours, 15 minutes and 23 seconds, according to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Norman Stupfel was part of the team as an alternate in case one of the six had to withdraw from the swim.

It wasn’t the time that was on their minds, but rather beating the former record set in 2013 by six men in their 70s.

It was a conversation with one of those former record holders that convinced Baker to recruit the other five for the attempt. The conditions were ideal on Thursday, with the water temperature in the low 70s, about 10 degrees warmer than usual. Before the swim, Baker said hypothermia was a big concern for the men, but the support staff included a doctor and a nurse to monitor their health.

The 22-mile swim took them from Catalina Island to San Pedro in southern California. The waterway is considered one of the most popular open water swims in the world, and is one of the Ocean’s Seven swims. Though no one under 14 is allowed to attempt the crossing, there is no set limit on the oldest people allowed to make the crossing. Other rules that must be followed to make the swim official are wearing only a swimsuit that does not go above the waist or below the knees, and they can’t touch the boat or others during their leg of the swim.

Johnson and Radcliff have possibly the most impressive credentials of the group. Both competed in the Olympics (Johnson for South Africa, Radcliff for the United States), and own a few Masters world records. All of them have competed against each other through the years and have extensive open water swimming backgrounds. Neither had done a swim at night, which Baker said was his major fear.

“It’ll just be one stroke at a time,” he said before the swim.

Baker’s odds of completing the swim were low, considering that he’s dealing with the effects of bone cancer in addition to his advanced age. But now he can rest and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

As long as a sextet in their 90s don’t get any ideas.

San Diego Union-Tribune article

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Diana Correa
8 years ago

Ann Heller von Spiegelfeld. Pretty amazing.

8 years ago

Aduh berani kali itu keren lh buat dia

Brooks Richardson
8 years ago

Congrats. You are an inspiration to those of us a decade or so beneath. Keep raising that bar for the next generation.

8 years ago

looking forward now . Respect and congratulations

Karlyn Pipes
Karlyn Pipes
8 years ago

Way to go UNCLE BILL!! Yep, Bill Spore is my uncle. Now I know where my swimming talent came from…the Spore side of my family!

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