Melanie Kaplan ’08 pursued her dream to swim the English Channel.
For many alumni, one of the most cherished facets of their years at La Jolla Country Day School is the community. The tight bonds forged on campus transcend the boundaries of San Diego. Many surpass Southern California, some stretch from coast to coast, while others cross international borders. For lifer Melanie Kaplan ’08, this rings true in a particularly special way. Buoyed by the friendships and foundation she built at LJCDS, she successfully swam the English Channel from England to France, days before her class celebrated their 10-year reunion. Swimming the English Channel had been a dream for Kaplan since Middle School. At LJCDS, she was a distance swimmer and played water polo under coach and English educator Nate Heppner. She went on to swim at Wellesley College.
Committed to fulfilling her aspirations, Kaplan left her job at an international strategic advisory firm in Washington, D.C. Then in summer 2018, she returned to California to begin training full-time. “I realized that if I was going to do it, I would have to really commit and commit in a big way,” she says.
Kaplan moved to the Bay Area and trained in the Pacific Ocean, where the water temperature is akin to that of the Channel: between 55 and 60 degrees. After seven weeks of training, on August 22, 2018, Kaplan made the 21-mile trek. Despite gusting winds of up to 20 miles per hour, shifting tides and challenging eddies, she completed the journey from Shakespeare Beach in Dover, England, to Cap Gris-Nez, France. Clocking in at 13 hours and 6 minutes, she beat the average time of approximately 15 hours.
Fittingly, her deep-rooted friendships bookended her remarkable achievement. Sophie Laing ’08 visited her in Dover, England, shortly before Kaplan began her journey across the Channel. Former LJCDS classmate Morgane Renoir visited Kaplan on the English and French sides of the swim while vacationing with her family.
“I think that a lot of people see swimming as an individual sport, but for me, it’s always been about the community,” says Kaplan. “The incredible outpouring of support right before I swam, and then during the swim, as well as right after was unbelievable.”
Though Kaplan is the 57th solo swimmer to cross the Channel in 2018, fewer people have swum the English Channel (1,500) than have summited Mount Everest (4,000), dating back to the first recorded crossing by Captain Matthew Webb in 1874.
Kaplan’s journey benefited EMILY’s List, a PAC that supports progressive female candidates for political office. Raising $6,000 for the nonprofit, she emphasizes her desire for “having the swim not just have meaning for me but also to have a more global impact. I always knew that I would do it for some cause. ... Community service was a really important thing that I learned at Country Day, and it’s influenced my career path in foreign policy.”
Kaplan returned to Washington, D.C., last fall and started a new job in public policy for a technology company.