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The City Journals

Starks swims across Catalina Channel

Oct 31, 2016 10:14AM ● By Greg James

West Jordan High School graduate and current Jordan High assistant swim coach Chad Starks completes the second leg of the open water triple crown by swimming across the Catalina Channel. (Gordon Gridley/resident)

By Greg James | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - West Jordan High School alumni Chad Starks completed the second leg of the open water triple crown. He swam across the Catalina Channel approximately one year after he completed his English Channel solo swim.

“This swim was actually harder than the English Channel swim,” Starks said. “About two hours in, I had something going on in my shoulder, and I had to vary my strokes, so I could rest it a little. This is one I will remember for quite some time.”

Starks completed the swim with an unofficial time of 13 hours 3 minutes and 5 seconds, on Sept. 24. The timing of the swim starts when the swimmer enters the water and finishes when the swimmer touches the opposing shore and clears the water. The fastest recorded time was 9:05 in 2009.

The official distance of the swim is 21 miles. Starks said the water temperature was actually about 70 degrees; it was warmer than what he trained for and expected. He began his swim at approximately 11:30 p.m., leaving Catalina Island towards San Pedro, California. The finish area is different than the sandy beaches of France. California’s coastline in this area is large boulders and rocky shore line.

“I trained to expect cold water,” Starks said. “Just like the swim last year, I took ice baths to train my body. The tide was different this time too; for part of the swim, it was in my face, and part of the time it was pushing me.” 

Shortly after sunrise, the official observer spotted dolphins swimming with him, but the biggest scare came from a thresher shark that circled him several times. The crew of his pilot boat, including his wife and some friends, kept a close eye out to make sure the shark never interfered. 

“Sharks were on my mind from day one of my training and throughout the swim,” Starks said. “I heard the dolphins and saw a huge fish, but it never came close enough to see what it was. Thresher sharks are just curious, and I never actually saw it. The trailing boat told me about it later.” 

In September 2013, Charlotte Brynn was allegedly attacked by a shark attempting the Catalina Channel swim. She is the only recorded shark attack upon swimmers attempting the Catalina swim. It happened in her first hour in the water while it was dark. She kept on swimming and did not alert her crew. She swam and additional 11 hours before being pulled from the water for hypothermia.

During the swim, Starks would stop every half an hour for five to 30 seconds to eat and hydrate himself. He used a Gatorade mix to keep his metabolism correct.

Starks began training for the open-water swim soon after he completed the English Channel swim. Starks and his friend Gordon Gridley met at Jordanelle Reservoir early in the mornings two or three times a week. They would swim 20–25 miles a week at the reservoir. 

“When Chad sets a goal, he is determined to accomplish it,” Gridley said. “He does not give up. We have trained together, and I feel Chad will be the third person from Utah to complete the open water swimming triple crown.” 

Starks is the third Utahn to complete the Catalina leg of the triple crown; Joelle Beard and Gridley both did in August 2013. They are also the only two Utahns to complete the triple crown by completing the Manhattan Marathon swim. Starks is planning on the Manhattan swim in 2018.

Starks currently resides in Sandy and is an assistant coach on for the Jordan High School swim team. Starks and Gridley are members of Salt Lake Open Water. They sponsor open-water racing and the triple crown of Utah lakes. The Utah triple crown includes swimming the width of Bear Lake, the Great Salt Lake swim Antelope Island to Black Rock, and the length of Deer Creek Reservoir. Starks has completed the Utah Triple Crown several times.

More information can be found about Utah open water swimming at