This is Kent. The guy I goofed around with as a teenager. The kid that laughed a lot, and always had a smile on his face. We swam together for three years at Westwood High School. Well, Kent swam, I trailed. But we had some great times back on then.
A few years ago I crossed paths with Kent again as we both had joined the same masters swim team. Mesa Aquatics Club had been reborn as the premiere masters team in Arizona. With a beautiful new pool facility and the finest coaches around, Paul and Laura Smith, MAC was a swimmers paradise.
With bed head and whiffs of chlorine in the air, we would arrive only half awake to dive into the cool waters of Kino Pool each morning to get our suffer fest on with Paul and Laura, who challenged our limits and improved our performance.
While most of the swimmers had something "little" like Ironman on their mind, Kent put himself into a different category. He was a distance swimmer: a rare breed seen swimming in sub 60-degree waters without wetsuits, cutting a path through the oceans and large bodies of water around the world.
It was shortly after Kent joined MAC that he swam his first mammoth swim, the 21-mile Catalina Challenge. The swim started off Catalina Island and Kent touched the shores of Palos Verdes, California in an amazing time of 10 hours 46 minutes. He made the swim look relatively easy back in September of 2011.
Suddenly his focus became a little more prestigious. The pinnacle goal of the distance swimmer is the English Channel. Kent applied to swim there, and while waiting for his approval, swam the 28.5 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in June 2012.
Two swims down out of the elite Triple Crown of Swimming, Kent finally was approved to give his English Channel dream a try in August 2013. How does one prepare for a mind-numbing swim like this? Kent organized several distance swim in Arizona's lakes. He also sat in a horse trough filled with 70 pounds of ice for an hour. Crazy talk.
His efforts paid off. On August 1, Kent successfully completed the English Channel swim in a speedy 11 hours and 22 minutes. His recap for the East Valley Tribune:
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.