It’s official, by formal decree from the mayor of Redding: Saturday shall forthwith be known as Hunter Wright Day.
What did Hunter do to deserve such an honor? The 17-year-old Enterprise High School student merely put Redding on the map last month when he became the youngest ever to swim the Strait of Magellan.
Hunter, who swims for his high school team as well as Water World Swim out of San Francisco, was one of only five selected by the Chilean Navy to be allowed to attempt the treacherous waters between Chile and Argentina.
He completed his historic swim on Jan. 17, setting a record as the youngest ever to swim the strait. He became just the 21st person to complete the swim and only the 10th to do it without the aid of a wetsuit.
Hunter required 1hour, 54 minutes to complete the swim. According to his coach, Pedro Ordenes of Chile, the Enterprise High senior had to contend with 42-degree water and currents of 12 to 16 knots.
In fact, the conflicting currents and winds conspired to force Hunter to swim an estimated 5.5 miles in order to cover the 2.5-mile-long crossing. In a blog posted on Water World Swim’s website, Ordenes says, “Believe it or not, when Hunter touched land and raised his arms and fell back in the water, even the paramedic share a tear with all of us…. he said, so young and so brave. As his coach I felt so proud for him and for all of us at Water World Swim.”
To prepare for the teeth-chattering ordeal, Hunter practiced in the San Francisco Bay and made the swim to Alcatraz Island an astounding 21 times. He also swam from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge.
Closer to home, Hunter chose the chilly waters of Whiskeytown and the outright icy waters of Castle Lake for training. In between all his training, Hunter finds time to maintain a 4.0 grade-point average, participate in Boy Scouts and play soccer for the Hornets.
“Thank you so much to everybody who has supported me throughout my journey to the Strait of Magellan,” Hunter said to a council chamber full of Team Wright members, including his parents, Toby and Carol Wright. “It was such a hard task. It is amazing to me that I have such a community that is willing to donate, have fundraisers, anything, to help me reach my goals. It’s just amazing to me and thank you very much.”
Mayor Bosetti, his voice choking with emotion as he undoubtedly reflected on the impact competitive swimming has had on his own children, waited until photographs were taken before reminding Hunter “how proud you made everybody in Redding.”
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.