January 20, 2018

Open Water Swimming by Ann Van De Water

My daughter and I did some research for a mini-report for Girl Scouts on Florence May Chadwick (1918-1995).  Chadwick, a San Diego native, defied most people’s understanding of women’s limitations as a champion ultra-distance swimmer, breaking many records.  She is best known for being the first person to swim the English Channel in both directions (with a couple month gap in between), a distance of over 23 miles each way.


She beat the first male swimmer’s time at swimming the Channel in the France to England direction by almost 2 hours when women’s endurance and athletic abilities were certainly underrated.  Two years later, she attempted the England to France direction, a much more difficult feat.  “Less than 7% of those who attempt to swim across the English Channel complete the trip,” notes the Encyclopedia of World Sport.


Her first attempt at the double whammy Channel swim, starting from England, included dense fog, strong headwinds, fog, and seasickness.  After almost 16 hours of swimming, “with only a half mile to go, she felt that she couldn’t go on, and asked to be taken out of the water.  She stated, “..if I could have seen land I know I could have made it.”  The fog made her goal seem unreachable.  “If felt to her as if she was getting nowhere.” (Gale Encyclopedia of Biography).


I strongly identify with those quotes.  I find the idea of being able to have a strong vision very appealing, but usually approach my days in my own “fog,” trudging on with my duties and responsibilities of child-rearing.  When my twins were infants, I really was in a sleep-deprived haze, not able to envision that sleepless nights, breastfeeding, and dirty diapers would end and the “walking, talking, regular sleep schedule” was within sight.


I am now in the grade school stage of child-rearing, including challenges based around homework, sports, chore responsibilities, instilling politeness and respect, encouraging positive friendships, providing nutritious meals, answering questions about physical changes, and diffusing sibling rivalry challenges.  I know intellectually that this too will pass, but it is sometimes impossible to view the future with anything other than semi-focused lenses.


Maybe that is the challenge of life in general, forging ahead, despite the inability to clearly project the outcome, forcing ourselves to press on and navigate sometimes difficult waters, not realizing that we are very close to our goal.






  1. Good points, Ann. The challenges are still there for sure, just different now that the kids aren’t babies. I can relate so much to your post.

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