Kevin Murphy

2003 Round-up

Kevin Murphy undertook three marathon swims in 2003, before succumbing to the surgeon's scalpel for shoulder repair. Swimming at the top of a mountain - difficult enough - but then an escape from Alcatraz - and finally a chat with dolphins in the Catalina Channel.

Lake Tahoe: He battled lack of oxygen to become one of a handful of people ever to swim the 22 mile length of Lake Tahoe, 6300-feet-up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, completing the swim in a time of 13hr 56min. Fears that water temperatures could well have been in 50sF (15C or less) proved groundless - they were in the high 60sF (18C ). But altitude, lack of buoyancy in the snow-melt mineral-free water and a strong cross wind during the second half of the swim, did prove a problem.

Kevin said:"I only had time to allow four days to adapt to the altitude. I knew I was taking a chance and with hindsight it wasn't long enough.

"As far as buoyancy's concerned, the Indians have a saying that logs will not float in Tahoe and if anybody drowns, the body never comes up! I can believe it but I didn't like to think of what was down below.

"And when the wind comes up Tahoe is so big it gets very rough.

"It's certainly a tough one but worthwhile because of that."

Alcatraz: Three days after the Tahoe swim, he swam the comparatively short (one and a half miles) from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shoreline - strong tides, a nosy sealion surfacing by his feet to have a look, but fortunately no sharks sighted, and a time of 45 minutes.

Kevin's verdict:" I don't think there's as much danger from sharks and tides as the old prison authorities liked to make out but it's not an easy one-and-a-half miles and it does have a certain eerie magic."

Catalina Channel: Twelve days after that he swam the American version of the English Channel - the 23 miles from Catalina Island to Los Angeles in 15hr 23min.

He said "Because of heat driven winds, the start was in the dark at 2 am. There are sharks around but I was assured there was very little chance of them taking an interest in me and there was no need to worry. As extra reassurance - I was told the bloke on the escort boat had a gun!

"In the middle of the night a school of dolphins started playing around me. It was too dark to see them properly but I could feel them going past backwards and forwards underneath. I could also hear the high pitched noise they made all around me - which was fine until one whispered sweet nothings in my ear and nearly deafened me."

Again, and as feared, the second half of the swim was hit by strong winds which swept him some distance from the intended landing spot. The last few miles seemed to take forever but he made it in to be greeted, in classic fashion, by one man walking his dog on a near-deserted beach.

Kevin organised the Tahoe and Catalina swims with the help of Channel swimmer Carol Sing and her friends from the La Jolla Cove club in San Diego. "The friendly enthusiasm and the support I got out there was absolutely fantastic. People were totally committed and willing to give up their time to assist me. Thanks isn't enough for what was done to help me. They made it possible.

"On Tahoe the boatman/pilot was Don Dakin. He's from San Diego but has a holiday home on the shores of the lake. He gave his time and boat for nothing and even accommodated me and the back-up team in his home.

"Alcatraz came with the help of Joe Oakes, Gary Emich and the South End Rowing Club in San Francisco.

"On Catalina I had a team of people from San Diego and the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, both on the escort boat and taking it in turns to canoe alongside me for close support.

"My wife, Jane, was on the escort boats as trainer on all three swims."

Back in Britain Kevin had been intending to plunge-in for another swim across the English Channel. He's already done 32 Channel swims and holder of the King of the Channel Trophy. But come the neap tide, conditions were unpredictable and he called it off. "I'd done enough this year," he said.

To enable him to do the swims in America he had delayed surgery on his shoulders. After 40 years of marathon swimming they were in need of repair but, well on his way to recovery in January 2004, he confidently reported "I should be okay now for another 40 years!"

Catalina Channel - Kevin Murphy
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Created: 21st March 2004
Last Updated: 30th September 2006