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City Recognizes Swimming Group in Wake of Record-Breaking Strides

A Santa Barbara Channel relay team competes in record time, and SBCSA's fundraising hits $100,000.

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Local Team Mission Wealth Management set a record in the 26-mile 6-by-6 relay race across the Santa Barbara Channel. (Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association courtesy photo)

With a recent record-breaking 26-mile 6-by-6 relay race win across the Santa Barbara Channel by local Team Mission Wealth Management, and a milestone $100,000 fundraising achievement in the past five years for local ocean-caring nonprofit organizations, the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association’s fifth annual “Big Swim” is gaining new levels of local, national and international recognition.

The city of Santa Barbara has awarded the association with a proclamation, acknowledging the contribution that it is making to the international world of open-water swimming events. According to the proclamation, the SBCSA is “increasing interest in and the credibility of the Santa Barbara Channel as a destination swim in the same league as the English Channel.”

In the past two years, swimmers from the United States, England, Ireland, Germany, Australia, India and Guatemala have participated in more than 30 marathon swims (relays and solos) across the Santa Barbara Channel. The SBCSA created the first historical record of successful swims across the channel. Today, it is the only group that organizes such swims in the Santa Barbara Channel.

“We were so excited to have a local team break the 6-by-6 relay record this year,” said Seth Streeter, a member of the board of directors and this year’s winning team captain. Team Mission Wealth Management (made up of members Jerry Mahoney, Scott Reed, Felipe Rivera, Cindy Braden, Corey Chan and Seth Streeter) won the race from Santa Cruz Island to East Beach with a record winning time of 11 hours, 27 minutes and 12 seconds.

It was the team’s second channel crossing win. Each member swam two legs of 35 minutes, then one leg of 30 minutes and a final leg of 20 minutes before all members swam in together to the finale. As a group, they raised more than $5,500 for this year’s two nonprofit recipients: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Heal the Ocean. Previous recipients have included the Community Environmental Council, Santa Barbara Channel Keeper, the Environmental Defense Center and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

“SBCSA has a vision of making the Santa Barbara Channel one of the premier channel crossing venues in the world while raising funds for ocean-caring, nonprofit organizations,” founder and President Emilio Casanueva said.

Traditionally, there are two events: the 6-by-6 relay, and then a week later, the Big Swim. The relay race attracts amateur teams of all types, while the Big Swim draws people who participate recreationally to have fun and raise funds and awareness for the beneficiaries. This year, the association added another event. Members took more than 60 local children as their guests out to visit Santa Cruz Island on a vessel called Conception. They were accompanied by their school principal, docents and National Marine Sanctuary personnel.

“This is the first year we have done this,” Casanueva said. “We aim to keep doing it in future years.”

The Olympics raised world attention to open water swim events this summer when it held its first such 10k event with Santa Barbara’s own Mark Warkentin representing the USA.

“Next year we’re anticipating that additional countries will join in the Channel race because word about the event is spreading,” Streeter said. “You can imagine the athletic and fundraising commitment it takes to participate in an event like this. We begin swimming at 1:35 in the morning without wetsuits from a cove on Santa Cruz Island in water that ranges from the mid 50 to mid-60 degrees F in temperature. In the darkness, the swimmers strap glow sticks on themselves, their kayakers and escort boats. Each team has their own color to distinguish each other in the dark. This year we fought through some heavy swells and then faced mostly good conditions until swimming through some wind and chop as we arrived in Santa Barbara at East Beach. But along the way, the experience is magical.  We even saw a large pod of dolphins and a few seals.”

Next year, the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association will increase the number of teams in the 6x6 relay event, allowing additional teams to be formed by any individuals who express an interest.

“While the Big Swim event annually attracts lots of people, the relay race will be limited to 10 relay teams if we get international participation,” Casanueva said. “All other parameters will remain the same. The dates for next year’s relay race are Sept. 4 and 5, 2009. The dates for next year’s Big Swim will be Sept. 11 and 12.”

Registration is already open for 2009. Click here for a registration packet; simply cross out 2008 and write in 2009 in the packet. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call 805.637.8331.

Jonatha King is a public relations representative.

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