THE BIG SWIM is truly an enjoyable stress-free way to experience a real channel crossing without having to train for a 10+ hour swim. Organized by the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, the BIG SWIM enables people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to participate in a 26-mile "freestyle" relay from Santa Cruz Island to Goleta Beach near the University of California Santa Barbara.
The annual event was captured in a wonderful documentary called THE BIG SWIM filmed and produced by the Ocean Channel.
Daniel Belding, who raised $9,100 for THE BIG SWIM, had the honor to be the lead-off swimmer. Belding started from Santa Cruz Island under overcast skies and glassy conditions at 12:15 am. The 55 members swam through the evening and eventually reached the California mainland by 4 pm under beautiful sunny conditions. Relay members took turns swimming in groups or swimming solo ranging in time from 5 minutes to as long as they wished. The swimmers were occasionally joined by pods of friendly dolphin in water temperature ranging from 64°F - 66°F.
Members had the choice to swim at night and/or swim only in daylight hours. Members could either wetsuits or swim under official Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association rules (i.e., no wetsuits). Every swimmer had a kayaker guiding them in the water as they took turns resting in the large escort boat, The Conception. It was a great way for many to experience for the first time the joy and challenge of a channel crossing.
Proceeds from THE BIG SWIM benefit the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Heal the Ocean.
The importance of ocean conservation of the 8 Channel Islands off the coast of California was easy to understand when one sees the majestic beauty of Santa Cruz Island. Known as "the Galapagos of North America," Santa Cruz Island is the largest privately owned island and is virtually untouched, offering an unparalleled opportunity for scientists and visitors to study and enjoy the numerous protected plants and animals.
Photo shows the 2008 relay members of THE BIG SWIM.