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12 Miles in 7 Hours

Man Swims from Anacapa Island to Oxnard


Although he started swimming at age 24, 52-year-old Dave Van Mouwerik knew that to cross the ocean from Anacapa Island to Oxnard would be no easy task. So he started training months ago, prepping himself for the solo journey that he recognized would be a true test of endurance and fortitude.

On the board of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association — a group that promotes, organizes, and tracks swims between the northern Channel Islands and the mainland — Mouwerik had seen his fair share of long-distance trips but wanted to test himself, as he put it. “I knew I had a bigger swim in me,” he said, “and I wanted to pick one that was doable.”

Mouwerik and his team launched out of Ventura at around 4:15 a.m. two weeks ago, arriving at the island at around 5:45 a.m. He jumped into the 62-degree water, he said, and made his way over to the tidal rocks. For a swim to be legit, he explained, the person has to have both hands on land before they get going. Gingerly grabbing onto a barnacle and seaweed-covered cliff face, Mouwerik soon took off with a paddle boarder alongside.

A pace swimmer sometimes accompanied Mouwerik, he said, as a small boat kept official watch nearby. Mouwerik said he stopped every 30 minutes to eat and drink: The paddle boarder would cruise ahead, getting out a bottle of an electrolyte and water mixture and an energy “goo” (and sometimes a few Fig Newtons, Mouwerik’s favorite) to meet him. “The whole thing is very choreographed,” he said, making landfall in Oxnard at around 1:00 p.m.

A little apprehensive about the feasibility of the swim, Mouwerik said his regimented training made all the difference. “I came away with an appreciation that if you’re well-trained, you can knock something like this out,” he said. Luckily, the longtime Central Coast resident said, the ocean cooperated and the surf didn’t get too choppy. “If the ocean doesn’t lie down for you, you can’t do it.

Pleased with his personal accomplishment, Mouwerik nevertheless recognized that his swim is just one of many and that folks are swimming faster and farther every day. “I’m happy with what I did,” he said, “but it was a little thing compared to what people are doing. You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing.”

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