With a successful swim across the English Channel on Aug. 1, Mesa attorney Kent Nicholas finished a feat registered by only 69 other people in the world: the open water Triple Crown.
It took two years for Nicholas to make the three marathon swims: the 21-mile Catalina Channel, the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the 21-mile English Channel between England and France.
He completed the first on Sept. 9, 2011. In June 2012, he swam the Manhattan Island Marathon, the only competitive race of the three swims.
Before his trip to New York, he put in his application for the English Channel.
The waters of the English Channel hover below 60 degrees in August, not exactly temperatures an Arizona-raised 46-year-old is used to. Nicholas’ preparation included distance swims in Arizona’s lakes, as well as sitting in a horse trough filled with 70 pounds of ice for an hour.
“It was painful and mind numbing, but necessary to prepare,” he said.
Swimmers are given a 10-day window to make the trek across the English Channel. Weather is ever changing. Currents can be fierce.
Nicholas and his wife, Candice, traveled to England at the end of July to meet the pilot of the boat he hired to follow him during the crossing.
“Some go over and the weather is never good and they go home,” Nicholas said.
For six straight mornings, Nicholas made his way to the beach, swimming in the water, waiting for the right opportunity.
“You meet people from all over the world on the beach. I met a swimmer from China, one from Chile, an Irish swimmer. It’s a big international flavor waiting on the beach in Dover to get ready for the swim,” he said.
The seventh day looked promising. But one hiccup kept Nicholas’ swim from starting on time: He’d left his passport in his hotel room.
“You cross into French waters and theoretically you can be pulled over by border patrol for a passport check,” he said.
Candice make a quick dash to the hotel for the passports and Nicholas’ boat pilot gave him the go-ahead after the delay with one warning: “Now, you’re just going to have to swim faster.”
He did just that: 11 hours and 22 minutes later, Nicholas landed just south of Wissant Beach in France.
“I had read so many stories about how treacherous it is and how difficult and how many people don’t make it and some made pretty negative comments about their English Channel experience. I just did not experience that. It was a positive swim,” he said.
Upon reaching the French beach, he was greeted by a British relay team that finished just ahead of him.
“Each of them came over and shook my hand,” he said.
Swimming is a family event in the Nicholas household. Kent credits his wife for her support in the and out of the water.
“My wife is a huge part of my swim. There’s not an open water swimmer out there that does these types of swims alone. I can’t tell you what a big support she’s been, not just training, but going on the boat and taking the seasickness medicine,” he said. “She’s a huge part of my success and being able to accomplish these things. I could not do these swims without her.”
Nicholas grew up in Mesa, was a lifeguard at Rhodes Junior High School and still swims with the Mesa Aquatics Club.
His 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son often travel with the family during Nicholas’ open water swims. His son, a swimmer himself, plans to swim Alcatraz Island to San Francisco next year.
“Swimming has really brought my family closer together,” he said.
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