BY JANE BABINSKI
On Friday, August 27, Islander Taylor Diepold, 29, swam 7.25 coastal miles around North Haven, in 3.5 hours. She is the first woman documented to do this and now holds a first-ever record.
Taylor’s swim was supported by two paddle boarders, Evelyn O’Doherty, an advocate for Stand Up for the Sea Foundation and chief editor of “Standup Journal,” and fellow paddler Nehal.
Taylor spent weeks prior to the swim planning the course, monitoring weather conditions, checking tides and currents, and taking notes, especially during her South Ferry commute to and from work. Her swim was originally scheduled for Aug. 22, but the predictions for Hurricane Henri placed the swim on hiatus. Her next opportunity, in accordance with the wind, weather, tides and her work schedule, was this past Friday at 8 a.m.
She chose to enter the water at the most narrow part of North Haven, at the south-facing side of Foster Memorial Beach, and started her swim in the Sag Harbor Cove, making her way toward the bridge. She finished in Noyac Bay on the north side of Long Beach (Kearns Beach) making a full 360-degree swim.
Taylor said, “I viewed the swim as a challenge. I had completed portions of this course before and thought it would be a safe circumventing swim. I decided to ask my followers to dedicate one minute for every mile I swam to sit in stillness, listening to their breath. This was inspired by a NASA study showing this technique can improve focus and vigilance. I swim with a technique that is driven by focus and breath. I mentally is pay attention to every stroke as it’s happening, and each individual component of the stroke, moving through a perpetual checklist of focal points. My mind rotates through other thoughts: How is my breathing? What does my body feel like? Do I need anything — water, food, a break? Do I need to change my stroke or technique? What is the current doing? How is my support crew? I feel at ease when I respond to those questions.”
She has created a system she uses professionally and personally. Through movement, breath and various behaviors she achieves a level of comfort, both neurologically and psychologically, making it possible to sustain the challenge of a prolonged 7-plus mile swim.
Motivation comes to her when she shares the excitement, she said, of the joy and passion of the challenge, including the feedback received through social media. Taylor’s grandmother, Islander Jane Babinski, 85, and Taylor’s mother, Jill Diepold, followed her along the coast, popping out on the shore ringing a cowbell, cheering her on — even the paddlers’ enjoyed the noise.
Taylor said she would love to do this swim again, but there are other open water swim challenges she would like to do next.