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Sandy Journal

Jordan High swim coach completes the triple crown of open water swimming

Oct 14, 2019 11:38AM ● By City Journals Staff

Chad Starks in his protective kayaker swimming the East River, part of this journey around Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Chad Starks)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

In just over nine hours, Chad Starks finished a feat that only three other Utahns have ever done. He finished the triple crown of open water by taking a dip under 20 New York bridges. 

Starks is officially the 223rd person to earn the open water triple crown. He swam the English Channel in 2015 and to Catalina Island in 2016. He is the third Utahn to complete the task — Gordon Gridley and Joelle Beard did so in 2014. 

“For the most part, the training was the same as my past big swims,” Starks said. “The big surprise was the water temperature was 76 degrees. I had been training in cold water so that was definitely something I had to deal with throughout the whole swim.”

The New York leg of the swim is 28 ½ miles and passes under 20 bridges. It starts at Pier A in Battery Park. The trek includes passage in the East, Harlem and Hudson rivers. The New York Open Water Association governs the events and coordinates observers (officials), boater (with two passengers) and a kayaker. The experience costs $3,000. Starks was among 16 other swimmers that day. 

“Boat traffic, freighters and regular cruise ships were the obstacles this time. I did see some jellyfish this time,” Starks said.

Gridley was able to pace swim with Starks in the Hudson and he said the water tasted like diluted diesel fuel, reviving memories of when he completed his triple crown. Starks ran into a floating toolbox near the beginning of the swim. Gridley said they thought it was a briefcase when they first spotted it. 

During Starks Catalina swim, he was circled by a large thresher shark and swam with dolphins. He spent mornings and afternoons training at Jordanele and Deer Creek reservoirs. The ocean current was not something he could simulate in the Utah lakes.

“Ninety percent of the swim was current assisted, but where the currents collided made for some serious chop (waves). Also the boat traffic made this swim interesting,” Starks said.

Starks graduated from West Jordan High School in 1991. He currently resides in Sandy and is an assistant coach with the Jordan High School swim team. He is also a member of Salt Lake Open Water. The club supports open-water racing and the triple crown of Utah lakes. The Utah triple crown includes swimming the width of Bear Lake, the Great Salt Lake swim from Antelope Island to Black Rock and the length of Deer Creek Reservoir. Starks has completed the Utah triple crown several times.

“I have had lots of support while training and during my time in New York. Gordon was there, my good friend Josh and my mom in the boat. Then my whole family followed around the island as I swam,” Starks said.

Starks and Gridley trained by swimming 20–25 miles a week.

“He is a genuine hero,” Gridley said. “He puts others before himself. He literally saved my life. He is humble and does not let his accomplishments get to his ego. I love him like a brother. It takes lots of support from family and friends to do this. Without that it would not be possible. It is not cheap, either. It takes a lot of money so the financial pressure is huge once you have decided to go all in. There aren’t groups of people willing to have the drive to do the monotonous training for this. It takes a great amount of internal drive.”

For more information about Utah open water swimming, visit their website at