This Anchorage nurse just became the first Alaska woman to complete the grueling ‘Triple Crown’ of swimming

a swimmer in the ocean
Jordan Iverson swims in the English Shipping Lane as cargo ships pass by her on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Courtesy of the Iverson family)

Anchorage nurse Jordan Iverson has become the first Alaska woman to complete a marathon swimming challenge called the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. Last Tuesday, Iverson swam 20.5 miles from England to France, finishing the final event in the challenge.

“I think it’s just really special that it’s three swims in different conditions and different parts of the world,” she said in an interview from England. “It’s so cool to be able to experience just different bodies of water.”

Before swimming the English Channel, Iverson swam 28.5 miles around Manhattan Island, and then she swam 20 miles from Catalina Island to mainland California. Only 333 people in the world have ever completed the Triple Crown, including just one other Alaskan, and Iverson did all three swims in just a year.

During each one, she faced different environments and different challenges. As she swam to France, she first traveled through the English Shipping Channel, where massive cargo ships towered over her. For a few minutes, a seal followed behind her. Then, she encountered something a bit more ominous: hundreds of jellyfish. They surrounded her. 

“They were underneath me, to the sides of me, in front of me,” she said. “It was like a landmine of jellyfish.”

Iverson didn’t get stung this time, though she has during past swims. 

a woman smiles outside in a swim cap and bathing suit
Jordan Iverson poses for a photo moments before jumping off the boat to start the English Channel swim on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. She has diaper rash cream covering some of her body, which open water swimmers use to help prevent chafing and also protect from sun burn. (Courtesy of the Iverson family)

Iverson has been a swimmer her whole life. She swam on state champion relay teams at Anchorage’s Service High School, and then competed in college. Now, at 31, she said she’s part of a strong community of swimmers in Alaska. For the past seven years, she has competed in an annual open water race in Sitka called Change Your Latitude. 

The morning of the big English Channel swim, she said, she felt prepared.

“I felt surprisingly calm,” she said. “I just felt like it was gonna be a good day.”

For the Triple Crown to be certified, the swimmer cannot take any breaks, and cannot wear a wetsuit or any type of thermal protection. On her previous swims around Manhattan Island and in California, Iverson found herself swimming through the night. 

“It’s definitely a strange feeling being in the middle of an ocean where it’s completely dark other than the night sky and a couple of carefully placed lights,” Iverson said.

The three swims for the Triple Crown can take anywhere from six to 24 hours, so most swimmers have a support boat or kayak following them. For the English Channel swim, Iverson’s parents and her sister were her crew, making sure she had enough calories through the swim. Every 45 minutes, her dad would throw her a water bottle filled with an electrolyte drink. 

The family also tossed her mouthwash every four hours, to prevent her tongue from peeling due to the saltwater — something that happened to her after past swims. 

a woman drinks from a water bottle while swimming
Jordan Iverson quickly drinks one of many electrolyte drinks to fuel up during her 10 hours of swimming the English Channel on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Courtesy of the Iverson family)

Her sister, Hannah Iverson, said that a good crew customizes their routine to the swimmer’s needs. 

“As family, we happen to know what she wants pretty well,” Hannah said. 

It took Iverson 10 hours and 17 minutes to swim the English Channel, which was much faster than she expected. When she got to shore in France, she took a couple of rocks and put them in her swimsuit as a souvenir, before swimming back to the boat. 

“It was surreal,” Iverson said. “I think that it didn’t, like, sink in — until I got back on the boat and was then celebrating with my family — just kind of how big of an accomplishment it was.”

Hannah said the family was so excited to see Iverson complete the swim. 

“It’s weird because like the first priority is like congratulating, but also it’s trying to get her warm as soon as possible,” she said. “Like, what do you need? Let us get a towel, some water, like all those kinds of things.”

four people pose in front of a boat, one holds an alaska flag
After completing the English Channel swim, Jordan Iverson celebrated with her sister Hannah, mom Robin, and dad Kevin on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Courtesy of the Iverson family)

Iverson said she’s very grateful for the support from her family, plus the support from her swimming community back home, who helped her train and put together a care package for her before she left for England. 

While it wasn’t always easy to train in a cold state like Alaska, she said, she hopes her accomplishment will inspire more Alaskans to take on big open water swims.

“In the winter all of our lakes and stuff are frozen, so I did most of the training in the pool,” Iverson said. “So I think it’s cool to kind of be groundbreaking that it’s something that anyone can do in Alaska. You don’t have to have certain conditions or be swimming in the sea every day to be able to achieve these things.” 

three swimmers in the water
Jordan Iverson swims alongside Mary Wood and Hannah Iverson on a swim in Sitka in August 2023. (Courtesy of Jordan Iverson)

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Jordan Iverson was the first Alaskan to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. She is the first Alaska woman. The first Alaskan was William Shultz of Ketchikan who completed the challenge on July 14, 2018.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Wednesday, June 26, 2024
Next articleFire destroys Stebbins school and surrounding buildings