This seal is a “monster”. A physical, mental and pugnacious monster. After having hung the triple crown (La Manche, Manhattan and Catalina) and the double triple crown (“two way” of La Manche, two towers of Manhattan and “two way” Catalina) on his list, Stève Stievenart, known as Stève le phoque , signed a resounding feat this Friday in Los Angeles. The extreme swimmer managed a great first: the “three way” of Catalina (32 km x 3), i.e. three crossings between Catalina Island and Los Angeles, which represents more than 100 km in a single swimsuit bath, and in water that fluctuated between 16 and 19 degrees.
In January 2022, Stievenart completed a “one way” (Catalina – Los Angeles in 1:41 p.m.) before doing it again in June of the same year with a “two way” (LA – Catalina then Catalina – LA in 28:45). A year later, Stève le Phoque has completed his “three way”, a historic performance because he is the first to accomplish it. To complete these three crossings, he swam non-stop for 51 hours 18 minutes and 3 seconds, from Tuesday evening to Friday morning.
Accompanied by a team of around ten people (pilots, “spotters”, cooks, kayakers, not to mention his crew for assistance, particularly in refueling) aboard the boat Pacific Star, Stève Stievenart set off from Doctor Cove in Catalina Tuesday evening at 8:43 p.m., the body slathered with Vaseline (to fight against friction) and Sudocrem (against salt). Shortly after his departure, when it was already dark, the kayaker who was at his side hit him hard on the back and on the head.
Stève Stievenart before his departure on Tuesday evening. (D. Michel/The Team)
He suffered terribly from his back throughout the crossing, to the point of almost giving up once he arrived on a piece of sand from Palos Verdes to San Pedro, at the end of his first crossing (15 hours 35 minutes of swimming). “I’m not going to be able to swim another 20 hours like this,” he breathed. He almost stopped everything but he left anyway, head in the water and arms in motion. It was then 12:25 p.m. local time on Wednesday (9:25 p.m. HF).
It was under the Californian sun while heading towards Catalina that a tribe of dolphins appeared in the middle of the afternoon. In the evening, during a refueling – they take place every 30 minutes -, Stievenart complains of his back, which makes him suffer excruciatingly. Again, he can’t help but continue his journey and ignore the pain as much as possible. And it was a little before daybreak on Thursday morning, at 5:01 a.m., that he set foot on a small Catalina beach, in front of an imposing cliff (2nd crossing in 16 hours 42 minutes).
A ballet of dolphins and whales
He then just completed a “two way”. He can stop there, but he got ready for a “three way” and leaves just as dry, after only one minute and twenty seconds. “Los Angeles, here we go,” he says enthusiastically despite visibly very strong pain. In the morning, a colony of dolphins is having fun in front of him, a welcome energy especially as a mola hangs around nearby, which has the gift of disturbing his concentration. Her lips are burnt with salt.
If the sun is strong, the ocean is “glassy”, without wind. Whales and dolphins are once again the kings of the spot. They improvise an impressive ballet in front of the swimmer who continues his quest for this unprecedented “three way” by working to grind his arms as much as possible. While the coast of Los Angeles is in sight, a strong side wind begins to blow and the current also becomes quite a handicap. The swimmer from Pas-de-Calais is only advancing very slowly, also exhausted by a monumental effort, at this time of 48 hours.
A dolphin just in front of Stève Stievenart off Los Angeles. (D. Michel/The Team)
The end is endless. In the dark and faced with unfavorable conditions, he tried as best he could to advance, this time towards Cabrillo beach a little further south of Palos Verdes, near the port of Long Beach. It is surrounded by two kayakers that Stievenart finally ends up reaching dry land.
In bad shape, he still manages to stay upright and validate this famous “three way” – 18 hours and 59 minutes for the 3rd portion. It is then 12:01 a.m. this Friday. “I am very happy to have come to the end of this three way, and I thank for my team, because without them it is obvious that I would never have been able to accomplish this”, he confided. His triple crossing (51h28’03) is a resounding feat in the world of open water swimming. Simply out of the ordinary.
Stève Stievenart after his “three way” with his trainer Kevin Murphy. (D. Michel/The Team)