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The City Journals

Former Jaguar Swims English Channel

Nov 06, 2015 12:40PM ● By Greg James

By Greg James

West Jordan - Set a goal, and for the next year and a half, that will become your life. West Jordan High School alumni Chad Starks, class of 1991, became the fifth Utahn to swim the English Channel on Sept. 20.

“I do not think it has set in what I did yet. I got back to the States and went right back to work. I do not think I will realize until I get the certification towards the end of the year. It was one of those things I had dreamed of so hard, so it is kind of surreal,” Starks said.

The English Channel swim is a registered 21 miles from Dover, England to Calais, France. The tides pushed Starks farther than he expected, and his actual swim distance was about 29 miles.

Starks joins Richard Barnes (2005), David Barnes (2006), Gordon Gridley (2012) and Joelle Beard (2012) as the only Utahns to accomplish the 21-mile swim. Starks traveled the distance in 16 hours and 54 minutes. 

His swim began 1 a.m., when they met the pilot boat to go over procedures and then launched towards his starting point.  The Channel Swimming Association had registered Starks’ swim and acquired the necessary permits for his attempt. The lookout pilot boat would help protect him from freighters and other boat traffic in the Channel. When they arrived at the starting point, Starks dropped into the 62 degree water and swam for shore to start the certified swim.

“My mom and dad, wife (Chandra) and Gordon (Gridley) were there to support me. I kissed my Mom and wife and dropped into the water. I knew I would squeal when I felt the water, but that is when the butterflies went away, too,” Starks said.

The first eight hours were uneventful. He had prepared for the temperatures by taking hour-long ice baths and swimming 25 to 30 miles a week in the mornings before work at local lakes.

“I think someone’s ice inventory is off, because I have stopped buying ice. I camped at the local lakes and would swim before work to get in my training,” Starks said.

For the final leg of his journey, he swam through constant schools of jelly fish. He said he expected to get stung, but had no idea how many stings he would have the opportunity to experience. Every 10 minutes they would get stuck on his eyebrows, under his arms and on his legs. 

“I saw hundreds of them. I would look up and just see a huge school of jellies in front of me. I tried swimming next to the boat and just behind the boat, but it was to no avail. My lips were numb because of all the stings,” Starks said.

The water temperature dropped to about 58 degrees as he approached France.  As he got closer, it was all he could do to stand up on the bottom. His legs could not support his weight since he had not stood in nearly 17 hours. He stumbled to clear the edge of the water, and then raised his hand in success.

“I had so many emotions going through my mind, so I lay down in the sand and just smiled. I was going to make a snow angel, but I was too tired. I got up, found a shell and stuffed it into my suit, and headed back out to the boat,” Starks wrote in his blog soon after he completed the swim. 

Starks is going to attempt to complete the triple crown of open water swimming. Next year he plans to swim the Catalina Channel in Southern California, and then after that, the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.

“If you want to accomplish a goal like this, make sure you have family support. Without my family I would not have had the push. The time involved is incredible. It took me nearly a year and a half of planning,” Starks said.