When it comes to setting long distance swimming records that involves pushing her body to the limits for up to two days, Penny Palfrey does not look the part.
The Australian is, after all, a 48-year-old grandmother. But gentle fitness pursuits like yoga, pilates and aerobics are not for this teak-tough athlete despite being middle aged.
Palfrey seeks to set a world record swimming 68.75 miles non-stop between the Cayman Islands in a few weeks. Beginning on 9 June she will defy the threat of sharks and probable multiple jellyfish stings to swim for up to 40 hours to create another remarkable milestone in her already extensive list of accomplishments.
Quite simply, Palfrey is the world’s greatest female adventurer of modern times. Her chosen canvas is the world’s oceans where she creates masterpiece after masterpiece.
The world’s longest authenticated solo marathon swim in the ocean without a wetsuit or shark cage is 58 miles by fellow Australian Susie Maroney, although three people have swum further back and forth in the English Channel.
An inductee of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, she has proven herself among the greatest open water swimmers of all time. In the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and around Manhattan Island her records have been set.
She has swum amongst Great White sharks and set world records in channels of Hawaii and across the Strait of Gibraltar.
But success in the open water is not always guaranteed. The Queenslander has been stung mercilessly in the past and reached toxic levels in her blood that made her abandon some swims. Monstrous waves, aggressive marine life, surging currents, bitter cold, unrelenting heat – she has faced and beaten everything on her long nights and days on non-stop swims. She is only allowed up to 10 seconds every 30 minutes for a break to eat and drink otherwise the record cannot be ratified.
No one has swum as far as she will on the Cayman swim. No wetsuit. No shark cage. Nothing but her incredible physical and mental strength.
She will start tentatively at 2am, depending on tides and currents, in Little Cayman and won’t stop until reaching the eastern shore of Grand Cayman.
Before her epic swim, Palfrey will also swim the channel between Cayman Brac to Little Cayman on 6 June, attempting to set a speed record for the 5 mile channel crossing.
Then it’s the epic 68 miles between Little Cayman to Grand Cayman, truly bridging all three Cayman Islands. Her world record attempt, Bridging the Cayman Islands, is expected to finish on Friday afternoon 10 June.
This swim is made possible by The Flowers Group, with generous contributions from Red Sail Sports, Cayman Airways, Department of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture, Cayman Islands, Sunshine Suites, Esso, Radio Cayman, Caymanian Compass, Digicel and Royal Caymanian Islands Police Service.
If she has the energy, Palfrey’s next swim will be the Flowers One Mile Sea Swim on 18 June.
For more information, go to http://www.flowersseaswim.com/BridgeSwim/tabid/204/Default.aspx