Penny and Chris Palfrey
We live in the very small coastal village of Seventeen Seventy (named after the year in which Capt. James Cook visited), on Australia’s central Queensland coast, just a fraction south of the Tropic of Capricorn. A few kilometers away is Agnes Water, Australia’s northern most surf beach. And directly off the coast from us, is the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
We retired from full time work in 2013, and run a small (part time) accounting practice from home. All of our swimming is done in a delightful estuary, 50 meters from our doorstep.
Penny was born in Scarborough, England and started swimming at age 9. She represented Britain in middle distance pool swimming as a teenager (under the tutelage of Mike Higgs). She migrated to Australia at the age of 19, and after a 12 year break from the pool whilst she raised her three children, decided to enter a short local river swim. Realizing she was still competitive, she thought she would try to fit in a bit of training between family duties, to see what she was capable of. One thing led to another, and in 1993, she was selected to swim for Australia in the 25k open water, alongside Shelley Taylor-Smith and Melissa Cunningham (the 1991 and 1994 world champions respectively).
Chris was born in Melbourne, Australia and did hardly any swimming until the age of thirty. He started to do a few laps when he took up triathlons in the late 1980’s. After a few years and a few injuries, he decided swimming was a bit kinder on the body.
We both prefer distance events and particularly open water, for the competition, the challenge (to mind and body) and the opportunity to travel and meet some truly amazing people. And another really exciting thing about open water crossings, is that even in the 21st century, you can still be a pioneer. There are still events and crossings in lakes, rivers and along coastlines in almost every continent, which hardly anyone has swum.
These challenges make open water swimming, for us, very exciting and give us the incentive to put in the training kilometers.
A brief summary of swimming achievements is as follows. For in depth accounts of our major swims, please refer to that section of our website.
Penny Palfrey’s swimming accomplishments;
- 2015 Boston Light Swim first finisher.
- 2015 Catalina Channel Swim 21 miles 9:19:49
- 2014 Swim Around Charleston 1st woman 2nd o/a.
- 2014 Anacapa Channel 12 miles / 20k 6 hrs 30min.
- 2013 Long Island to South Molle to Daydream Island 11k
- 2013 Whitsunday Island to South Molle Island, Queensland 10.2k
- 2012 Swim the Suck, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA 10 mile.
- 2012 & 2013 North Channel attempts, unsuccessful due to cold temperatures, cramps and multiple jellyfish stings.
- 2012 Cuba to Florida attempt 41+ hours swimming 90 miles or 132 kilometers unassisted between the two nations before having to abandon the attempt due to strong currents.
- 2012 Swim Around Key West relay
- 2011 December Molokai Channel 42k / 26 miles 12 hrs & 7 minutes.
- 2011 September 20th Tsugaru Strait, Japan 20k 14 ½ hours.
- 2011 June 10th/11th Little Cayman Island to Grand Cayman Island 67.25 miles or 108 kilometres in a time of 40 hours and 41 minutes. This was a world record for the longest unassisted ocean swim. *See note.
- 2011 June 6th Cayman Brac to Little Cayman Island swim 8k record time of 1hr 53m
- 2011 July 31st Magnetic Island to Townsville 8k swim 20th crossing.
- 2011 March 18th Kaulakahi Channel, Kauai to Ni’ihau
- 2011 March 11th Molokai / Kaiwi Channel Hawaii 26 miles / 42 kilometres, 11hrs 40 min – Record
- 2011 Alakeiki Channel, from Kaho’lawe to Maui, Hawaii. 5 miles, 5hr.07 min.
- 2010 Catalina Channel 21 miles 10hrs 28 minutes on September 13/14th
- 2010 – Inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
- 2010 – Double crossing of The Strait of Gibraltar (20 miles) setting the woman’s record for both the single and double crossing)
- 2010 Hawaii, Oahu to Kauai, Kaieiewaho Channel (72 miles) two attempts in 2010 both ending with multiple Portuguese-Man-of-War stings after 12 hours and 35 miles and 7.30 hours and 17 miles respectively.
- 2009 First person ever to swim from Santa Barbara Island to Point Vincente (LA coast) (42 miles). This swim was also recognised by the IMSHOF.
- 2009 First woman to swim the Alenuihaha Channel from Hawai’i (Big Island) to Maui (30 miles) (this swim was officially recognised by the IMSHOF). Record time for this crossing.
- 2009 Part of a relay team which in 2009, set a new world record for the longest ever lake relay swim (75 miles)
- 2009 First woman to swim the Au’au channel from Maui to Lana’i (note: other women have swum from Lana’i to Maui) (8.8 miles).
- 2007, 2008, 2009 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, New York City. Three race finishes. Overall winner in 2007 and women’s winner in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (28.5 miles).
- 2008 First person to ever swim the Santa Barbara Channel from San Miguel Island to the California mainland, (28 miles) (this swim was officially recognised by the IMSHOF).
- 2008 Tampa Bay Marathon Swim. Overall winner and women’s course record holder (24 miles).
- 2008 First person to ever swim between Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands, off Santa Barbara, CA (6.2 miles).
- 2006 & 2007 Two crossings of the English Channel (21 miles) resulting in seven awards from the Channel Swimming Association.
- 2006 Cook Strait, New Zealand (16 miles).
- 2006 Strait of Gibraltar. First Australian woman to complete this crossing (10 miles).
- 2000 – 2010 Rottnest Channel Swim, Australia. Nine race crossings, including twice overall winner (12.5 miles).
- I represented England in pool swimming and Australia in open water swimming. I’ve accomplished six podium finishes in Australian 25k open water swimming national titles.
- I’ve won numerous medals in international “masters” competitions and several FINA masters world records.
*Distance is measured between two land masses for example, the distance between England and France (the English Channel) is 21 miles, a swimmer may be carried by the current or tide and travel over far more ground than that but the distance remains at 21 miles. My Cayman Island swim of 67.25 miles stands at the furthest unassisted ocean swim between two land masses.
Chris Palfrey – recent swimming accomplishments;
- Molokai (Kaiwi) channel, HI, USA – 42.4 klm – April, 2010
- Green Island to Cairns – 27.1 klm – November, 2010
- Townsville to Magnetic Island – 8 klm – August, 2004. And a triple crossing in May, 2004.
- Longest ever freshwater relay – 5 man – Lake Taupo, NZ – 120.6 klm – January, 2009
- Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz Is, CA, USA – 9.6 klm – June, 2008
- Orpheus Is to Taylors Beach, Ingham – 17.5 klm – May, 2011
- Saunders Beach to Rattlesnake Is – 14 klm – May, 2011
- South Molle Is to Airlie Beach – 15.2 klm – September, 2011
- Hamilton Is to Shute Harbour – 20 klm – November, 2011
- Long Is to Shute Harbour – 8.8 klm – May, 2012
- Daydream Is to Airlie Beach – 12.9 klm – September, 2012
- Hamilton to South Molle Is – 14.5 klm – June, 2013
- Whitsunday to South Molle Is – 10.2 klm – September, 2013
- Long to Daydream Is to mainland – 15.6 klm – November, 2013
Other Main Swims
- Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, NYC, USA – 2007, 2008, 2009
- Catalina, CA, USA – 2009
- Gibraltar, ESP – 2006 and 2010
- Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, FL, USA – 2008
- Rottnest Channel Swim – nine successful race crossings between 2000 and 2010
- Hawaii channels – five successful crossings – 2009 to 2011
- Australian Open 15 klm OW championships, Perth – Bronze medal in 2000
- Swim around Key West, FL, USA – 2012
- Townsville-Magnetic Is swim – triple crossing in 2004 and 16 consecutive race crossings.
Penny in the movies – Three Rivers, The Brooklyn Bridge and Lady Liberty http://vimeo.com/20493197