Syracuse resident swims the English Channel; Willard swimmer aims to follow suit

Aug 14 2012 - 1:32pm

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Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Joelle Beard swimming at Bear Lake on September 27, 2011. Beard of Willard is attempting to swim the channel either late this month or in September. It is very unsual that there would be two Top of Utahns trying to swim the channel the same year. Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the channel. (Courtesy of Beard Family)
Joelle Beard swimming at Bear Lake on September 27, 2011. Beard of Willard is attempting to swim the channel either late this month or in September. It is very unsual that there would be two Top of Utahns trying to swim the channel the same year. Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the channel. (Courtesy of Beard Family)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the English Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Joelle Beard swimming at Bear Lake on September 27, 2011. Beard of Willard is attempting to swim the channel either late this month or in September. It is very unsual that there would be two Top of Utahns trying to swim the channel the same year. Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the channel. (Courtesy of Beard Family)
Joelle Beard swimming at Bear Lake on September 27, 2011. Beard of Willard is attempting to swim the channel either late this month or in September. It is very unsual that there would be two Top of Utahns trying to swim the channel the same year. Gordon Gridley of Syracuse just recently completed a swim of the channel. (Courtesy of Beard Family)

SYRACUSE -- After years of preparing, Gordon Gridley swam the English Channel in 11 hours and 30 minutes without a single complaint.

The Syracuse resident swam from Dover, England, to northern France on Aug. 9. Gridley joked that he didn't want his boat pilot, Paul Foreman -- who told him women swimmers who swim the channel are "the best" because they don't complain -- to think he was a whiner.

"That really got me fired up," Gridley said in a posted blog.

"My goal wasn't to say a single word of complaint and hope (Foreman) would notice," he said.

Prior to beginning the swim across the 21-mile-wide channel, which equals a 36-mile swim because of the pushing tides, Gridley said, he took a moment to thank his Heavenly Father.

The end result: the father of seven finished with a much faster time than the personal goal of 14 hours he had expected it would take him.

The world's record for swimming the channel is seven hours. But it was never Gridley's intent to beat that mark. The Utah man only wanted to lay claim to completing the swim.

"The water was flat as a lake the first two hours, so I took advantage of it and really pushed it," Gridley said.

Outside of a rough landing, where he got scratched up on the rocks coming out of the water, he was pleased with his effort and was looking forward to seeing more of England.

Oddly, the 40-year-old Gridley, a former West High School swim team record holder, is the second Top of Utah resident this summer to want to swim the English Channel.

Joelle Beard, of Willard, a swim coach in Box Elder County, is also planning to swim the channel sometime between Aug. 27 and Sept. 6.

It is "very unusual" that there are two swimmers from Utah wanting to swim the channel, said Joelle's mother, Renee Beard.

"There are usually only a handful of swimmers a year," she said.

Joelle will not wear a wetsuit, but instead will wear channel grease consisting of lanoline and petroleum jelly, Renee Beard said.

The body grease will prevent her 24-year-old daughter from chaffing under the arms and around the neck, at the same time keeping her warm in the cold water of the channel, she said.

The water temperatures of the channel, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, are 60 to 61 degrees this time of year.

In preparation for her swim, Renee said, Joelle has swum across Bear Lake twice, covering 16 miles in six and a half hours.

"Joelle swam competitively for 10 years, has life-guarded for eight years and coaches the Box Elder Swim Team (competitive age group team)," Renee said in an email to the Standard-Examiner.

Her daughter also coaches the Special Olympics swimming team for the Golden Spikers.

"Joelle has always loved the water and was very good at swimming, but because she is so short -- only 4-feet, 101/2 inches, she could never set any school records," her mother said.

"She got tired of her coaches consoling her that she could never be a great swimmer because of her size. She decided to show them that she could accomplish something no one else she knew could do -- to swim the English Channel," Renee said. "She is an inspiration to those she now coaches, especially the swimmers with disabilities."

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