Erica Esterly, a 20-year-old philosophy major from Scottsdale, and a third-year cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, will swim 57 miles during the 40 Bridges Race on Aug. 10.
She is one of the youngest to attempt the 40 Bridges Race, sponsored by New York Open Water, which involves two laps around Manhattan Island, according to a press release.
A member of the Army West Point Swim and Dive Team, Esterly successfully finished NYOW’s 20 Bridges Race — 28.5 miles and one lap around Manhattan — in September 2021 in 7:39 hours.
The 2017-18 Arizona Open Water Female High Point Scorer, Esterly is no stranger to the challenges of open water swimming, but last year’s 20 Bridges Race was her first marathon swim. Her love of open water swimming and determination to finish the race helped her focus despite the grueling feat.
The 40 Bridges Race will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, and it is estimated that she will finish the next morning, Thursday, Aug. 11, at approximately 5:30 a.m.
Only 13 people have successfully finished the 40 Bridges Race, and if Esterly is able to add her name to that exclusive list, she will be the youngest official swimmer by 16 years, the press release stated.
She will depend on her mental and physical toughness to finish the 57 mile, counter-clockwise swim around Manhattan on Wednesday.
Of her previously completed 28.5 miles swim, Esterly said, “I probably could have kept going, physically I was fine but when I finished, mentally I was done. You lose sense of time. It’s just you in the water, you’re disconnected from the world, no phone, no music. It disconnects me from everything that’s on my mind and stressors. That’s part of the reason why I like it so much. Marathon swimming as physical as it is, is much more about being in the right headspace. You could quickly go to a bad place thinking about how your shoulder hurts, but you have to fight through that.”
In September 2022, Erica will swim the Catalina Channel, from Catalina Island to Point Vicente, California, a race known for its mental toughness with its midnight start.
Her ultimate goal? To be the youngest person to complete the Oceans Seven, a marathon swimming challenge consisting of seven open water channel swims. Devised in 2008 as the swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge, it includes the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokaʻi Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar.
Follow Esterly’s swim on Instagram @eesterly.