What had you done by 11 a.m. Monday? Doesn’t matter. You didn’t achieve as much as Charlotte Samuels, who etched her name in swimming lore by completing one of the sports most difficult achievements.
As reported by The Bergen Record, among other local outlets, Samuels, a 16-year-old Ridgewood High junior and star of the school’s swimming team, completed a crossing of the English channel on Monday at approximately 5 p.m. local time in France, 11 a.m. on the East coast. The full distance of Samuels’ particular crossing has yet to be calculated, but is expected to be roughly 30 miles, the longest open water swim that Samuels has completed. The trip took Samuels 20 hours, 44 minutes and 47 seconds.
“It was really intense emotionally,” Samuels told the Record. “I just kept thinking of all the people who love me and who helped make this possible. Partly, I was crying because I felt really grateful.”
As one might imagine, it takes plenty of encouragement to continue swimming for nearly 21 hours. For Samuels, that encouragement came from New Jersey, virtually transmitted via Facebook messages. The teen was rooted on by classmates and teachers from Ridgewood throughout her swim, with her parents and crew members on the tracking boat that followed her across the channel repeatedly writing messages of encouragement on a whiteboard that was hoisted above the ship for her to read.
When she reached France, Samuels immediately became the youngest to ever finish the so-called “Triple Crown” of open water swimming after earlier completing a circumnavigation of Manhattan and the Catalina Channel off California’s coast. At 16, she was more than two years younger than the existing record holder, Lachlan “Lochie” Hinds, an Australian who finished the feat earlier in 2014 at age 18.
Now that she holds the record, Samuels is ready to celebrate it. That started in England, where she enjoyed a champagne lunch to celebrate her channel swim, and a trip to the White Horse Tavern, where she was able to write her name next to all other swimmers who have successfully navigated the channel.
When she returns to Ridgewood, that celebration will continue with a lot more of her friends and family getting in on the act, as many made clear to the Record.
“We’re so proud of her,” said Stephanie Strickland, a fellow swim team member. She called Charlotte’s feat “insane.”
Daniel Fishbein, Ridgewood’s Superintendent of Schools, called Charlotte’s achievement “unbelievable” and “incredible.”