When 16-year-old Balthazar (Bali) Fedalizo jumped into the Pacific Ocean at 3 a.m. on Sept. 26, he noticed he wasn’t alone in the water as he swam his portion of a 25.1-mile relay across the San Pedro Channel.
“I could hear dolphins during my swim and noticed them as my hand hit the hit the water,” he told The Epoch Times.
“It was pretty dark at night, but you could see them swim by with the bioluminescence in the water.”
Bali and his sister Abigail, 17, were part of a seven-member team of swimmers connected with the nonprofit Ocean Fever, a youth empowerment program that introduces children to open-water swimming, with an emphasis on ocean safety and the environment.
Their mission was to bring awareness to mental health—something the Fedalizo siblings have noticed affecting their family and classmates since the beginnings of the pandemic.
“I believe in myself, but others may not believe in themselves as much or don’t really have the confidence to yet,” Abigail told The Epoch Times.
“My goal with this swim was to try to help others, boost their confidence, and inspire them to really believe in themselves.”
The Fedalzio siblings grew up seeing Catalina Island from their window, and the pair are actively engaged in athletics and extracurricular activities, which helped develop their swimming skills for the trip from Catalina Island to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
In 2017, Bali became the youngest swimmer in history to swim the Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier race at age 10. The mixed martial artist and varsity football player at San Pedro High School has even saved a young woman from drowning, for which he was awarded the Red Cross Lifesaver Award.
Abigail has also saved people from drowning. The full-time lifeguard at Huntington State Beach balances her lifesaving skills while also captaining the San Pedro High School water polo team.
“At Huntington City [Beach], it can get pretty gnarly pretty fast out there,” Abigail said.
“I made a recent rescue in a massive rip current there, and it was crazy seeing how bad it was after, from the beach.”
The Swim of a Lifetime
Through Ocean Fever, the swimmers were granted the opportunity to accomplish a memorable swim while also helping to generate proceeds for You Are Enough, a program that provides teenagers with mental health assistance.
“I actually was pretty excited that they were part of the relay team, and you could just feel the excitement from the parents that day,” Gertrudes Fedalizo, Bali and Abigail’s mother and a registered nursing case manager, told The Epoch Times.
“It just really generated when we dropped them off at the boat.”
The team began their swim from Doctor’s Cove on the northeastern side of Catalina Island.
Equipped with lights on their swimsuits, the team was also assisted by kayakers and a support boat that lit the way with marine lights.
With water temperatures of around 60 degrees and an ocean bursting with sea life, the siblings and their teammates inched their way across the channel, swimming in one-hour intervals.
“There were just dolphins everywhere. They were all around me, and it was kind of scary,” Bali said.
“I heard them, but I was just too scared to look around, so I just decided to keep swimming forward.”
As Bali focused on the finish line during his swims, Abigail also kept her focus forward by mentally keeping herself in check.
“We were in the water for a long time. You just stay motivated,” she said.
“If you set your mind to it, you can do it. I wanted to do that Catalina swim, and I did it.”
The Finish Line
While swimming in the darkness of night, the Fedalizos were dependent on the navigation of their boat team, as their destination wasn’t visible. When the morning light displayed the Palos Verdes coastline, the siblings were grateful to be close to finishing their 14-hour swim.
“It was super exciting, I mean, when you’re swimming in the middle of the night, and we couldn’t see anything, even Catalina,” Abigail said.
“When we saw [the shore], I was like, ‘We are going to finish this.’”
As they arrived at the rocky coastline of Sacred Cove at 12:40 p.m., the team was greeted by a cheering crowd.
“I was just really happy. I knew that it was over,” Bali said. “The taste of the saltwater in my mouth [was] finally gone.”
Abigail added: “You realize how much you missed the land. And that you would rather be on the land!”
Gertrudes also recalled the moment that her children made it safely to the beach.
“We were so proud. No one had to say anything because you could just feel it and see it looking at their faces,” she said.
“That was the thing; they did not give up. It was something that they wanted to do, and they finished it.”
While the teens add another accomplishment to their already vibrant resumes, they continue to move forward in encouraging their peers who have the same conviction that led the team to finish the swim.
“If you’re just one person, you can always get it done,” Bali said. “But with the help of others that believe in themselves and are confident, they can help bring that person up to really believe in themselves, to make them better.”