Pearce Swims Catalina Channel


Teacher Ranie Pearce swims across the 22-mile Catalina Channel. The kayakers and support vessels were only allowed to intervene in an emergency.

Emily Fong, Co-News Editor

Teacher Ranie Pearce completed a marathon swim to Catalina Island on September 24. The ocean swim, which took about 13 hours and 42 minutes to complete, was a remarkable milestone in Pearce’s swimming career.

Having swam the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar, the 22 mile journey to Catalina was a new setting, but familiar challenge for Pearce. “The English Channel was 24 miles, and that took 18 hours and 24 minutes,” said Pearce. The Catalina swim was 22 miles long, and a “huge improvement” on time. “I’m very happy with that,” Pearce added.

Her effort included a support team in accordance with Catalina Channel Swimming Federation (CCSF) rules. The team was allowed to provide water bottles, but was otherwise only allowed to intervene in an emergency situation. Pearce was permitted only to wear a bathing suit and not allowed to have physical contact with any other swimmer or support vessel.

In preparation, Pearce worked out often with the Orinda Aquatics Masters program in the mornings before school at the Soda Aquatic Center. Pearce also swam in the Pacific about twice a week.  Since January of this year, she has swam about 475 miles in total.

In addition, Pearce visited Ireland over the summer to spend time training in a cold water environment. “I turned it into a vacation,” Pearce said. “I had a real adventure in Ireland, swam with a bunch of other crazy long distance swimmers. That was really cool.”

For Pearce, swimming is an essential part of her life. “I feel very at home in the water,” she said. “I’m not a good swimmer, I’m not a fast swimmer, but one of the reasons I like this so much is that someone like me who’s a real average person can be an elite endurance athlete, which is really cool! It’s special.”

Pearce is considering swimming the “Oceans 7”, a collection of long distance swims all around the world. The locations include the Irish Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar.

Of the 7, Pearce has already completed 3 of them, but is unsure whether or not she wants to continue. “There’s one in Japan, but I’m not too excited about going there, and it would be very expensive. But there’s one in Hawaii, which might be fun!” she said.

However, there may be an issue with Hawaii’s tropical waters. “The bad thing about warmish water is that it usually brings sharks and jellyfish,” according to Pearce.”Cold water may have its problems, but it doesn’t have sharks!”

Pearce doesn’t intend to quit anytime soon, and would like to inspire others to pursue the sport as well. “I’m not done swimming,” she said. “I think that one of the nicest things that I want to tell the kids that swim in high school… I could have never won a high school swim race in my life! I’m slow! But, I have done some really amazing things, and they can too. There’s life after age group swimming.”