UCSB's Daniel Marella Raises Over $12,000 for COVID Relief

Dan Marella during a meet against UC San Diego in 2019
Dan Marella during a meet against UC San Diego in 2019

By Jorge Mercado, Santa Barbara News-Press

Many people might wake up a bit sore or exhausted this morning, but chances are Daniel Marella will have the better excuse.

The 20-year-old UCSB swimmer swam 10 miles Saturday for charity, raising money in support of COVID-19 relief for Cottage Hospital.

"I am definitely a lot more fatigued than I have been since coronavirus started," Mr. Marella said with a laugh.

"But it's kind of nice to feel tired from a swimming related event."

The upcoming junior has been planning the charity swim for a couple months with a goal to raise $10,000.

He already eclipsed that total, raising over $12,000 which will help fund COVID Home Kits and support Cottage employees.

"The idea was 10 (miles) for 10,000 (dollars) but I've never done something like this before so I didn't really know if that was possible or if that was too little or anything like that. But we ended up raising over $12,000 which is just $2,000 over the goal which is awesome," Mr. Marella said.

He hopes that more people will donate over the next few days after seeing that he accomplished the tough feat.

Mr. Marella's Saturday started very early — at 5:30 a.m.

"Caffeine," he said with a laugh.

"I knew I needed to get some coffee in my system and definitely get a good breakfast. And it really didn't hit me until this morning that I was actually going to do this swim."

By 7:15 a.m., the co-captain of the UCSB swim team was in the water surrounded by some teammates and friends who followed him through his journey, cheering him on.

The journey started in Isla Vista, near El Embarcadero Road, and ended at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club.

Before Saturday, the junior had only swam six miles in the ocean. By noon, Mr. Marella had finished his 10-mile journey.

"It was definitely tough. Once I finished mile seven, I hit a pretty tough wall but I just thought about what this is for and how much of an impact that this could have. Once I saw the finish line it was pretty easy," Mr. Marella said.

Having never swam that far before, Mr. Marella said the final three miles were definitely the hardest especially because of the route.

"There's a lot of points that are a little discouraging because you always think it's going to be the final turn until you see the finish and there's about three or four of those. Each one was a little bit more and more demoralizing but once we actually finished the final one, it was lights out from there," Mr. Marella said.

Once he saw the finish line, he was greeted by a bunch of friends and family, something he was not expecting but was happy to see, especially with everyone wearing masks.

"It was pretty surreal. I mean, I didn't really expect for there to be a big crowd, I just thought it would be my teammates and my family but pretty much everyone who I've connected with in the swim world, you know, coaches old coaches, people that I've started to swim with since quarantine, everyone was there," Mr. Marella said.

Throughout his journey, he also heard a lot of cheers from people at different checkpoints, some UCSB athletes from other sports, and other people who heard about the event and wanted to support him.

"It was something that I really haven't experienced before. I had my closest friends on the kayaks and my assistant coach actually joined halfway but there were people on the beach just kind of cheering us on. It was kind of surprising to me how much the word has spread because people that I didn't even know were cheering us on from the pier and from the beaches," Mr. Marella said.

With college sports being the talk of the sports world right now, especially college football, Mr. Marella said he has noticed a lot of negative press. He didn't want that to be the case for swimming.

"Right now, swimming is getting good press and that means the world to me and to all my teammates and the people who I have met along this journey. I just want to give back to this sport that has done so much for me," Mr. Marella said.

Overall, if there's one thing he hopes people take away from his swim, it's that anybody can make a difference.

"I'm just a kid. I'm 20 years old. I like playing video games, I like messing around with my friends and stuff so I mean, it is special that we could accomplish this, but if I can do it anyone else can do it," Mr. Marella said.

"Everyone's got a special talent and if they could just take that talent and try to extend it that's great. For me, I'm just using the talents and gifts that God gave me for good use. I mean that's something special and anyone can do that."