Junior Becca Mann became the first swimmer to finish the Triple Maui Nui Channel Swim Aug. 19. Mann, a former USC swimmer who turned pro last August, completed the historic swim in 20 hours and 53 minutes.
The Triple Maui Nui Channel Swim is a daunting 39.64 mile triangular route which begins at Maui and proceeds to Molokai, Lanai and then back to Maui. Although the swim’s distance far exceeds that of Mann’s usual competitive swims, the 10-kilometer open water event and the mile, Mann did not change her training regimen.
“For this event, I just went into it,” Mann said. “I didn’t know how to train for it. I don’t even know how you can train for 20 hours … I knew that my body could do it because it was just one day of my life, and I’d spent so many hours in the water just training and pushing myself. I knew that I could physically do it; it was just going to be a matter of mentally conquering it.”
Despite the grueling nature of the swim, Mann said that for her, swimming distance feels less like a job and more like an adventure. Her swimming experience dates back to when she was 5 years old, when she ignored her parent’s concerns about pool safety and attended her sister’s swim class without permission.
“[My parents] were driving her to the practice, and I packed my bag and snuck in with her and joined the swim team, and I just never looked back,” Mann said. “I love swimming so much, the idea of my goals and reaching for them and challenging myself. It really allows me to push myself as far as I can go.”
While Mann put in countless hours at the pool to physically prepare for the swim, she was surprised by the mental challenge it presented. The strong current, especially during the second stint from Molokai to Lanai, slowed her down tremendously and made her uncertain as to how much ground she could cover within each hour.
“[From Molokai to Lanai], I was swimming three times less than my normal speed,” Mann said. “So I was only going 500 meters every 20 minutes, and normally I can do 1.5 kilometers per 20 minutes, so that part was a real challenge. Just knowing that I was still 10 kilometers away [from the end], which I can normally do in two hours but would take me seven hours this time, was really hard to get through.”
Since the event was Mann’s first swim at night in open water, she was able to experience the beauty of the nature surrounding her in a new way. The water grew progressively darker as she swam, and Mann was mesmerized by the phosphorescent light that appeared each time she took a stroke.
“When it was totally dark, I turned onto my back and did some backstroke, and the stars were the brightest I’d ever seen because the moon hadn’t risen yet,” Mann said. “And it was just pitch black with all these glistening stars, and I felt like I could touch them because they were so bright and so close.”
Mann said she wants to take on the channel swim again one day, but she isn’t sure what else the future has in store for her in regard to swimming. Although she came up short at the qualifying event for the 10-kilometer race in next year’s Olympic Games, Mann qualified for the upcoming pool Olympic trials and is still deciding whether she will compete. After taking a year off from school to train for the Olympics, Mann has resumed her studies at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts as a screenwriting major.
Mann also harbors an interest in fundraising and aims to donate excess funds from each swim to organizations like the Navy Seal Foundation.
Mann created a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the paddlers, management and equipment required to ensure her safety during the swim. Although she was unable to raise excess funds this time around, Mann hopes to continue to raise awareness about the organization and its mission to keep the oceans clean through her platform as a professional swimmer.
Whether she continues on to the Olympic trials or focuses on her studies, Mann hopes to continue to push herself to new heights both in and out of the water.