Grace van der Byl

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Grace van der Byl
Phil Cutti, David Holscher, Zach Jirkovsky, Luane Rowe, Blair Cannon, and Grace van der Byl of the Night Train Swimmers walking onshore after a 228-mile non-stop relay down the California coast between 22-26 August 2013, escorted by Vito Bialla, Hal McCormick, and Patrick Horn
Night Train Swimmers in Sequel, their escort boat starting at Gaviota State Park in their 228-mile non-stop relay swim along the California coast with Grace van der Byl in the water
Grace van der Byl (born June 13, 1978) is a world-class open water swimmer and National level pool swimmer from Solana Beach, California. She also the record holder for the Catalina Channel solo crossing from Catalina Island to the California mainland in 7 hours 27 minutes. She is also an active Observer for the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation and was one of only two individuals (besides Rondi Davies) to finish all 7 stage swims of the 2012 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, the longest competitive open water swim in the world. She also won the first 9.5-mile stage swim in Saguaro Lake, the second 9-mile stage swim in Canyon Lake, the third 17-mile stage swim in Apache Lake, and the fourth 10K night race in Roosevelt Lake at the 2013 S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge in Arizona. She also won the 15.1-mile (24.3 km) inaugural Cape Circumnavigation Challenge around Cape May, New Jersey in 2013.

She started swimming at age 2 (one month before her 3rd birthday) for the Green Gate Gators Swim Team in Spring, Texas. She started year-round swimming at age 7 for the Hub Fins Swim Team in Hattiesburg Mississippi. Later she represented The Woodlands Swim Team (TWST) and University of Houston at a National level.

After retiring, she coached for several teams in Houston, Texas area. Upon moving to California, she became involved in the local swimming community and presently coaches for Rancho San Dieguito (RSD) swim team in Solana Beach - she currently swims for Solana Beach Swim Masters under Coach Joe Benjamin and supports a variety of open water swim-related causes and programs including the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation. She is a true ambassador for the sport of swimming with several local and national television appearances and enjoys investing in kids to develop the sport of open water swimming for a new generation as well as supporting numerous channel attempts including participating in Team Tripod.

She is married to renowned ocean kayaker and escort crew member Neil van der Byl and co-manages the SoCal Open-water Swim Support service.

Contents

Biography

Gracie was born in Opelousas, Louisana, the daughter of Raymond and Chemelle Price. Her father, a military and oil man also played football for the San Francisco 49ers and her mother was a distinguished swimmer and competitive sailor.

Career

After retiring from swimming for about 10 years, Grace became involved with open water swimming and returned to master's pool swimming receiving 5 Gold Medals in Atlanta 2010. Grace has been competing in open water races since 2008 and increasingly became involved in the community through charity events like the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the NBC-sponsored Iron Man program for Cancer survivors, and the Mates-Helping-Mates event for victims of the Australian wild fires.

She also dedicates her time to grass-roots program development and introduced an age-group program for kids to compete in an all-season open water swimming championship. Her dedication to the sport earned her the coach of the year award in San Diego, and she continues to give back to the sport that gives so much to her. With the help of open water swimming mentors Tina Neill and Carol Sing, she invests her time training for colder and longer open water swims and plans to cross the Catalina Channel solo in 2012.

She also entered the 2013 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the 2013 15.1-mile Cape Circumnavigation Challenge marathon swim around Cape May, New Jersey.

Swimming Highlights

2012 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Nomination

She was nominated for the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year award. Her World Open Water Swimming Association nomination reads,

Graceful, powerful, relentless is how Grace van der Byl is seen as she demonstrated her world-class speed from coast to coast while setting 8 different records in America throughout 2012. She was one of two individuals to finish all 7 stage swims of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim, the longest competitive open water swim in the world where she set a record in each stage of the 193 km 8-day race. She followed up her victory in the Hudson River with several stints as an observer for other channel swimmers, and ended her summer season with a record crossing the Catalina Channel in 7 hours 27 minutes. A swimmer since the age of 2, her love of the sport has endured endless hours of tough love and tough training in both the pool and ocean. For her speed that never seems to falter, for her willingness to readily volunteer for other channel swimmers, for her passionate love of the sport that never wavers despite cold and currents, Grace van der Byl is a worthy nominee for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

Hall of Fame: Distance Swim Challenge

Distance Swim Challenge (12.6 miles, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A.)

First Female Non-wetsuit Swim: Grace Van der Byl (USA), 16 October 2010, 5:58:00

Swimming Career

2009: Received a FINA Masters World Top 10 ranking in the 200 SCM butterfly

2010: USMS Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia - Won 5 gold medals and broke 2 records that have stood for nearly 20 years.

2010: USMS All American

2011: USMS All American

2011: Broke another age group record that has been standing for nearly 20 years

2012: *World Record: 1st person to complete all 7 stages of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim

Competed in 2010 Alcatraz Challenge in 55 degree water under very rough conditions and placed first overall woman (both wet- and non-wetsuits) as well as second overall (both male and female combined). Footage from the Tri-Cal website shows her jumping in the water off the ferry (around the 1:30 mark in the video) as well as a race winner's interview.

Summer 2011

Summer 2012

California Coastal Swim

She participated in the California Coastal Swim or the Nighttrain228, the Night Train Swimmers's world record setting non-stop ocean relay swim. The Night Train Swimmers completed a 228-mile (367 km) swim down the California coast from Gaviota State Park to San Diego Yacht Club between 22-26 August 2013. Under the direction of captain Vito Bialla with crew Hal McCormick and Patrick Horn, Phil Cutti, David Holscher, Zach Jirkovsky, Luane Rowe, Blair Cannon, and Grace van der Byl, with Walter Bean Scott as the alternate swimmer, will rotate in one-hour swim legs.

Nighttrain228

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Pilot / Kayaker: Neil van der Byl

Fastest Catalina Channel Crossings in History

1. 7:15 by Penny Lee Dean, USA, MC in September 1976
2. 7:27 by Grace van der Byl, USA, CM in October 2012
3. 7:37 by Pete Huisveld, USA, MC in August 1992
4. 7:41 by John York, USA, MC in September 1978 (first leg of a 2-way)
5. 7:43 by Karen Burton, USA, CM in October 1994
6. 8:05 by Todd Robinson, USA, CM in August 2009
7. 8:07 by Hank Wise, USA, CM in October 2010
8. 8:14 by Chad Hundeby, USA, CM in September 1993
9. 8:20 by Gemma Jensen, Australia, CM in August 2006
10. 8:27 by Jim McConica, USA, CM in October 1983
11. 8:28 by Rendy Lynn Opdycke, USA, CM in August 2008
12. 8:31 by John York, USA, MC in October 1977
13. 8:32 by John York, USA, CM in October 2000

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