Interview with Evan Morrison
Recently I was able to catch a word with Evan Morrison. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the marathon swimming world, Evan is the record holder of Santa Barbara Channel.
He serves on the Board of Directors for the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association amongst other committees. You can learn more about his achievements here.
He also writes regularly on his Freshwater Swimmer blog and is the co-founder of Marathon Swimmers Forum. You can see his in-water, video captures of his swim from Pier 33 to Alcatraz island with the Alcatraz Swimming Society (ASS) here. He will also be featured in a new documentary called Driven.
1. What inspired you to start marathon swimming?
I swam competitively in the pool through most of my childhood, and I was looking for a new challenge. One of the great features of open water swimming is there's virtually no limit to the possible distances one can do. In the pool, the longest race is 1500 meters. In open water, people frequently do 10, 20, even 30 mile swims. And I realized that the longer the swim, the better I was.
2. You said two years ago you never thought you'd make the swim from Pier 33 to Alcatraz swim. How much practice did it take to complete that swim?
Alcatraz is not a particularly long swim, so the main challenge for me was getting ready for the water temperature. Swimming pools are typically around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. San Francisco Bay is around 50 degrees in the winter, when I did the Alcatraz swim. For the unacclimatized, 50 degree water is extremely cold. But with consistent practice, almost anyone is capable of gradually increasing their tolerance to cold water. The South End Rowing Club members who swim year-round in the Bay without wetsuits are evidence of this.
3. What do you think about the Alcatraz Swim Marathons? Any plans to participate in the future?
Swimming between Alcatraz and the city is only a little over a mile, so it's technically not a marathon swim. A marathon swim is defined as 10 kilometers or longer. I am a member of the South End Rowing Club, so I swim in the Bay - Alcatraz and other locations - pretty frequently. My next big swim is "Bay to Breakers" - from the Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach, on the same day as the run.
4. What are some tips you can give to fellow swimmers looking to swim in this bay?
Start off small - even just a few strokes - and your body will gradually get used to the water temperature. If it makes you feel safer at first, consider using a wetsuit. But in my opinion, the best way to swim in the Bay is without a wetsuit. The cold water is so invigorating! Also, it's best to swim with other people. Joining the South End Rowing Club or the Dolphin Club are great ways to meet new people and find swim partners. Also, there's a sauna when you finish!
5. Lastly, what is your mission in Driven?
To shed light on the obscure world of open water marathon swimming, and to share the beauty of the Santa Barbara Channel.
Thanks for sharing your joys of swimming, Evan!