Bruckner Chase staggered ashore at San Carlos Beach in Monterey on Tuesday evening after a 14-hour swim to raise awareness about the fragile nature of the local marine environment.
Ironically, some of the creatures native to that environment made Chase pay dearly for his 25-mile traverse across fabled Monterey Bay.
“I’m, like, ‘Come on guys, I’m trying to help here,’ ” he said of a massive swarm of jellyfish that rose to the surface and threatened to thwart his epic odyssey.
Chase was first stung about an hour into a swim that began in his hometown Santa Cruz before dawn. The jellies became more dense and the stings more frequent, so a determined Chase donned a wetsuit handed to him by those aboard an escort boat.
But that only protected his torso, arms and legs. “I got stung on my tongue, inside my mouth, on my neck and my feet and hands,” he said during an interview Wednesday morning, while parts of his body still itched and contained welts. “After the sun came up I did not take a single stroke in which I did not at least see a jellyfish.”
Chase, 44, who scheduled the event earlier than he would have liked to help kick off this week’s Blue Ocean Film Festival, became only the second person to have completed the swim across Monterey Bay.
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Cindy Cleveland, a Southern California lifeguard, remains the only swimmer to have accomplished the feat without wearing a wetsuit: the manner by which long-distance swimmers prefer. But Cleveland did not experience a jellyfish swarm of the magnitude Chase endured, as his wife and two sisters watched from the escort vessel while cringing as Chase slogged through the gooey, tentacled creatures.
Since 1983, several people have tried — and failed — to repeat Cleveland’s feat. Jellyfish foiled Chase’s first attempt last year, nine miles into his swim.
Patti Bauernfiend of Northern California tried last week, without a wetsuit, and made it halfway before jellyfish stings forced her out of the water.
Chase, an endurance swimmer who has swum the length of Lake Tahoe and tried or attempted numerous other “adventure swims,” put on the wetsuit reluctantly after his wife, Michelle Evans-Chase, told him he would not make it without one.
“We had a bigger mission in doing this, in connecting the two cities and spanning the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary,” the swimmer explained. “I would have hated to let pride and ego keep me out of the wetsuit when we had so much potential to reach so many people by swimming across.”
As for the jellies, several species abound in Monterey Bay during much of the summer, but they’re not always so dense at the surface. During the last mile, Chase felt them oozing through his hands with every stroke and realized “that had I not been in a wetsuit, I would not have been able to physically survive.”
(Video courtesy of KSBW) http://www.ksbw.com/index.html
– Photos of Bruckner Chase during and after his marathon swim courtesy of his sister, Babs Chase
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