Local woman sets Catalina Channel swim record - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local woman sets Catalina Channel swim record

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Last week, a local woman set a world record for her swim across the Catalina Channel. It was Grace Van der Byl's ninth world record. But she didn't do it alone, she had help including from family present and family passed.

"Some people want to swim. I need to swim."

And Grace's need is extreme. In fact, she just swam from Catalina to San Pedro in a record seven hours 27 minutes. It's part of a journey that began with words from her dying mother

"Y'know if you're any kind of a good swimmer and think you're good in the open water, you should do Alcatraz. And if you're really good, you should win it," Grace explained.

A week later, her mother was gone, but a year later Grace did win that Alcatraz open water swim and she's been building ever since.

"For the last three years, I've just every year tried to do something a little farther to see how far I could go," continued Grace.

She fell in love with the 20 mile Catalina Challenge while supporting another swimmer's failed attempt to cross.

"I feel like I could do it and just wanted to see how fast I could do it," she said.

Training was intense, with Grace swimming more than 70 miles a week working up to Catalina. But she wasn't alone:

"My husband is so amazing. He's with me on every training swim. He's my biggest fan."

He paddled along next to her on a kayak. She needed the support to fight Mother Nature, a strong southern current and jellyfish.

"One got stuck in my goggle strap. I was so concentrating on going fast, I let it sting me until I stopped for a break," Grace explained.

One of the worst parts of the swim for Grace was the fact that it was mostly in the dark. But as difficult as that was, she says she found strength in the memory of the two parents she lost to cancer.

"I don't like it. It's unnerving, but for whatever reason that day I felt so calm and so confident. I felt them with me the whole way," said noted.

Grace happens to be an award winning swim coach, instructing masters and youth. As to her next challenge, she says she'd like to swim around Manhattan Island.

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