Grace van der Byl
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.
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.
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 is entered into the 2013 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.
- World record holder of the Catalina Channel (Catalina-to-mainland) in 7 hours 27 minutes
- Nationally top 16 ranked swimmer since age 8
- First Junior National time at age 13 (100 back stroke)
- First Senior National time (trial) cut at age 15 in 100 Butterfly and 200 IM
- Full scholarship for a SWC Division 1 team University of Houston
- Ranked top two in EVERY open water swimming race since 2008 in distances ranging from 1 mile to over 12 miles including:
- Tour of the Buoys
- La Jolla Rough Water
- La Jolla 10 Mile Relay (as Solo)
- Encinitas Sports Festival(Moonlight Beach)
- San Clemente Ocean Festival
- Surf Monkey
- Oceanside Labor Day Pier Swim
- Alcatraz Challenge
- Alcatraz Touch-and-Go
- Open Water Distance Challenge (”12.6”)
- Del Mar Powerhouse Paddle and Swim
- Maui Channel Swim
- Amakua Race
- 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim
2012 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Nomination
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
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.
- Observed several Catalina Channel crossings
- Swam “Are We There Yet?” Catalina Channel Relay
- Maui Channel Relay: First mixed relay
- Aumakua 2.4 mile (Maui): First overall woman and 3rd combined (very close margin)
- Alcatraz Touch-and-Go: First overall non-wetsuit and set the course record for men and women non-wetsuit
- Second overall female Oceanside "Tiki" Swim
- 8 Bridges (120 mile) Hudson River Swim
California Coastal Swim
She will participate in the Night Train Swimmers's attempt to set the world record for the longest non-stop ocean relay swim in history. The Night Train Swimmers will attempt a 228-mile (367 km) swim down the California coast from Point Conception to Coronado in August 2013. Under the direction of captain Vito Bialla, Phil Cutti, David Holscher, Zach Jirkovsky, Luane Rowe, Blair Cannon, and Grace van der Byl will rotate in one-hour swim legs.
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
- 8 Bridges bios
- Venturing Into The Unknown
- Byl And Large, Gracie Is Fast
- World Open Water Swimming Association
- Grace van der Byl, Marathon Record Holder
- A Celebration Of Catalina Channel Champions
- Daily News of Open Water Swimming
- Strong Field Prepares For The Big Apple
- Swim Agelessly In The Open Water
- Are Open Water Swimmers Watermen?
- Fast Times, Camaraderie On S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge Day 2
- Day One, Stage One At S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge
- Graceful As She Goes
- Grace Van Der Byl Goes 3 For 3 After 17
- Night Train Swimmers Announce World Record Relay Attempt