Catalina Channel Swimming Federation
greta andersen

CCSF News – February 2012

Crossings from 50+ Yrs Ago Recognized

Archival Records Provide Evidence of Catalina Swims

The organizational goals of the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation are to promote safety for marathon swims, authenticate successful Catalina crossings, and gather historical data of swims. Recent research has uncovered several events, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, which meet the exacting criteria of a Catalina crossing which the CCSF requires of every swim.

The CCSF is pleased to announce four “new” swims to the list of our legitimate crossings:

Leo Vigil of Cuba, July 22nd 1957 in 17h 14m

Stewart Evans, August 26th, 1959 in 20h 55m

Greta Andersen, October 16th 1959 in 11h 7m

Isaac Papke, June 30th 1963 in 12h 45m

These names are now recorded in the official list of solo swims across the Catalina Channel. It might be of interest to Catalina swimmers that the listing order has been affected: The new total number of swimmers who’ve crossed the Catalina Channel stands at 227.

More importantly, Greta Andersen is now recognized as one of the two women with the most Catalina crossings. Our records show she completed her 4th crossing in 1972– This being the 40th anniversary year of that remarkable swim (when she was “only” 45 years old).

Greta’s history within marathon swimming is well-established. The 1948 Olympic champion and ISHoF inductee was the first to complete a two-way crossing of a major Channel (her Catalina double in 1958). Greta won three consecutive Butlin’s English Channel Races in the late 1950s. And today, she continues to provide swim lessons to children.

Leo Vigil was 24 years old when he attempted to break Florence Chadwick’s record. He blamed choppy seas for slowing his progress. Still, he celebrated a successful crossing even if he thought it could’ve been faster. A few years earlier, Vigil along with fellow Cuban and Catalina swimmer Jose ‘Johnny’ Cortinas planned a relay attempt of the Straits of Florida. Apparently, based on the absence of follow-up newspaper reports, this Cuba-to-Florida relay didn’t achieve its goal.

Stewart Evans celebrated his 34th birthday by crossing the Catalina Channel. At the time, he was a United States Army Captain serving at Fort MacArthur with the 47th Artillery Brigade. His Commanding Officer congratulated “Stew” on his Catalina swim (quote) “Your achievement has brought a high order of credit to yourself, your family and the Brigade.” Evans, in 1967 at age 43 and promoted to Lt Colonel, became the first person to complete the swim from the Farallon Islands. He swam ashore at Duxbury Point near Bolinas. Evans told the reporters that he fed regularly on lemon Jell-O and 7-Up.

isaac papke 1963Isaac Papke, like Stewart Evans, was a member of the Dolphin Club in San Francisco. During his 1963 crossing, he was joined by a whale for several hours. Afterward, he told the Los Angeles Times “It was kind of nice having a companion, but you know, they swallow people!” A few years later, Papke made an attempt to be the first swimmer to make the Farallon Islands, but was pulled out only a couple of miles from the mainland

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The CCSF continues to strive to improve safety in open water swimming.

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