It’s quite a thing to contemplate one’s own mortality at the age of 11. Swimming in the San Francisco Bay on May 17, 2014, with Alcatraz behind her and her and her club swim coach ahead of her, Angel More thought: “Oh, I could die.”
It was the first time More — an avid swimmer — had attempted an open-water swim, making a trek so treacherous that it was one of the main deterrents for any prisoners who pondered escaping The Rock.
“It was unreal for me to reach the shore,” she said.
More — now a junior at The Menlo School — has since set multiple age records for open-water and marathon swimming, has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, swam the River Thames, completed the California Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming and has designs on swimming the English Channel. Since that day four years ago, she has done the Alcatraz swim 50 more times, and on Oct. 28, she will do it again, this time to raise money for Children International (you can donate HERE).
“It provides them with food, shelter, the basics they need, and they also, on top of that, help with education,” More said. “Once they get the basics down, then they further their education, and it’s all to stop the cycle of poverty.”
Children International is a meaningful organization for More and her immigrant family, who became involved with the charity as soon as she was born. They now sponsor six children, including three girls in their native India, two children in Guatemala and one in Honduras.
Four years ago, More and her family traveled to Guatemala and visited the two boys they sponsor. More learned about their youth program, which provides skill instruction for students entering high school in the fields they choose to enter.
“I felt that they were very similar to me; they just didn’t have the same opportunity, and that’s what Children International gave to them,” More said.
More’s father Hemant immigrated to the United States in 1991 to earn his Master’s in computer science at Florida Atlantic. In 1993, he moved to San Francisco to work for a financial software startup, Advent Software. After what he called “the standard Indian arranged marriage,” in 1995, and taking his MBA at the Wharton satellite campus in San Francisco, Hemant and his wife started their own company. Now, Arcons Technologies employs 42 people in India, and services over 80 firms.
Being self-employed entrepreneurs has allowed the More family to let Angel spread her wings, as it were, even when others weren’t so supportive.
At the age of 11, one of More’s swim coaches –Brandy Lynn Vassallo, of the local Otter Swim Club — was set to make the Alcatraz swim before she got married. She put a call out to anyone in the club who wanted to join her. Of the over 300 kids from ages five to 17, More was the only volunteer.
Other club parents came to Hemant and said it was crazy to let an 11-year old swim those waters. Hemant saw it as a way for his daughter to broaden her horizons. His wife?
“She was more circumspect,” he said. “She went and read up on what the swim is, how long it is, what the challenges are. She talked to the coach, she came to San Francisco. Then, she said, ‘OK, let’s give it a shot,’… It was like a new beginning for us.”
That swim was only a mile and a half. She swam Alcatraz four more times that year, and swam from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge — a feat she’s accomplished five more times since.
She’s biked the Solvang Century, ran multiple Olympic triathlons and sprint triathlons, finished in first place (ages 12-19) at the 2015 Mighty Mermaid Triathlon, became the youngest swimmer to go from Capitola Wharf to Santa Cruz and back again — a six-mile swim — and was one of just six of the 16,000 participants in the Midmar Mile in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to do the South African Midmar 5k swim a day later in 2016, taking third place.
“My friends, they do think it’s really cool, or insane, sometimes,” More said.
During her June 27 swim between Catalina Island and Terranea Beach — the second leg of the California Triple Crown — just five miles from the coast, covered in Desitin and having spent more than 10 hours in the water, the currents held More in place for two hours. She saw a pod of dolphins pass her. That would break most people. Not More.
Every day, she swims five kilometers in the pool. Every Thursday, she leaves her San Carlos home at 4:30 a.m. for the drive to Fisherman’s Wharf. Just past the closed restaurants and storefronts is the South End Rowing Club. More’s coach, former Princeton swimmer Evan Morrison, heads out in a kayak by More’s side, as she swims a loop outside of Aquatic Park to judge the current in the Bay, and down to Chrissy Field and back again.
“I think you have to be very focused and driven,” Morrison said. “I think you have to be comfortable in your own mind, just being able to hear the sound of sloshing water for hours on end.”
More has her own personal playlist in her head that she listens to over the hours in the water. For Catalina, it was “Eye of the Tiger” and “Sweet Caroline”. She admits she’s not the fastest swimmer — she does swim varsity for Menlo — but she has endurance, and she does almost all of her swims without a wetsuit. That includes her swim from Anacapa Island to Oxnard’s Silver Strand Beach in August of last year, and the 21.3-mile, 14 1/2-hour, overnight swim from Doctor’s Cove on Catalina Island to Terranea Beach, and the final leg of the Triple Crown — swimming 21.3 miles down the length of Lake Tahoe, which she did on Aug. 25.
Next up: She wants to do the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, which includes a circuit of Manhattan and the English Channel.
Morrison likens More to Lynne Cox, one of the most famous open-water swimmers ever, set a speed record at the age of 14, swimming the Catalina Channel — which More did this year as part of the triple crown — and swam between the island of Little Diomede in Alaska to Big Diomede, then a part of the Soviet Union, on Aug. 7, 1987.
“Lynne is an example of someone who got started pretty early,” Morrison said. “I see Angel following her footsteps. There are very few who get started as early as Angel has. She has certainly accomplished an incredible amount in a short amount of time. She has some bigger-picture goals in mind, not just with swimming, but with her non-profit that she’s raising money for.”
More raised $40,000 for children in poverty with an attempted summit of Mt. Aconcagua at the age of 12. Her Triple Crown swims have all raised money, as well, but this is her first try at putting on her own event.
“I talked to so many high schoolers, and they all think I do these crazy things, but I know all of them can also do them, themselves,” More said. “I thought it would be fun to have my friends do the Alcatraz swim, also while raising money, to help kids around the world do whatever they think is crazy, or whatever they’re passionate about.”