Gosport swimmer Anna Wardley completes mammoth adventure to California
A SWIMMER who has been hailed as ‘Gosport’s own mermaid’ has arrived at the finishing line of her toughest challenge to date.
Anna Wardley, 43, completed a solo crossing of the iconic Catalina Channel in California in 18 hours and 31 minutes.
The 33km swim, her first major swim since 2016, took her from Santa Catalina Island to the Californian mainland.
Her swim also aimed to raise awareness of suicide in memory of her dad, Ralph Wardley, who died by suicide in 1985.
Anna said: ‘I got into the water in pitch darkness and had to swim for almost seven hours in the inky water before daybreak which was a big challenge for my nerves given I was in waters frequented by great white sharks.
‘The water temperature dropped significantly when I reached the Continental Shelf, but I pushed on motivated by the fact that I was doing the swim to shine a light on suicide loss, something I experienced when my dad took his own life when I was nine.’
Anna stopped for food every 30 minutes during the crossing, on a diet including rice pudding, mashed banana and caramel sauce and pasta.
En route to the finish line, it is estimated that the 43-year-old took more than 63,000 strokes – despite pain in her right elbow.
‘There was a major temperature drop towards the end of the swim, which was a bit of a shock to my system,’ Anna said,
‘But it felt like an ice pack on my sore muscles which came as a welcome relief.
‘It was really tough getting out in the surf onto the slippery rocks.
‘There was lots of kelp and I couldn’t stand up after swimming for so many hours.
‘My muscles were cramping up in my legs as I tried to climb out.’
After spending a couple of days recovering in Sonoma, Anna is back on the road as part of the Churchill Fellowship. Her next stop is Montana, USA.
‘I’m here to research how we can better support children after suicide loss, and this swim, challenging as it was, doesn’t even come close to what is faced by children when they lose a parent to suicide,’ she said.