Guilford entrepreneur swims from Sachem's Head to Faulkner's Island
By: Robert C. Pollack, Staff writer

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Guilford business owner and swimming enthusiast Taylor Swope is equally at home in Long Island Sound or designing children’s clothing. Photo by Dennis Bell

GUILFORD-At 30, Taylor Swope is a creative entrepreneur who designs and creates her own lines of children's clothing.
But on Sept. 4, under relatively clear skies, she put on an entirely different hat and dove into Long Island sound off Sachem's Head.

It was 5:30 p.m. when she began a two hour swim to Faulkner's Island accompanied by a friend, Eric Cooley, who circled her on a jet ski.
And though the 3˝ mile distance she traversed in calm, warm water is not remarkable for long distance swimmers who routinely cover much greater expanses, for her, it was a test of will and endurance.
"I love challenges and this was a challenge I had thought about for some time," she said last week.
Swope, a Gilford High School graduate who actually got her diploma after attending college, spends her summers in a relative-owned cottage on Falcon Road. The pink, one-bedroom cottage consists of just 400 square feet but it overlooks Sachem's Head Harbor.
"I love it here," she said last week after being driven to what she called "a pile of granite" with a white flagpole sticking up its middle where - wearing a red bathing suit - she waded into the Sound again, this time to display her swimming technique and love of the water.
She knifed through it effortlessly and it was clear it is her second home. Whether a backstroke or a crawl, she made the water hers.
Later, after toweling herself off and returning to the cottage, she sat on the porch as the sun poured down and recalled her Faulkner's Island swim.
"About four years ago, I developed a passion for long distance swimming as a great way to exercise," she said.
"The more I did it, the more I loved it."
Swope said she began swimming from Joshua's Cove around Unca's Point to Sachem's Head Harbor, building up endurance.
Now she closed her eyes and recalled the swim to Faulkner's, the adrenaline flowing. "The water was calm and glassy and I had no problems, swimming strong and true until I reached the water near the island, which is surrounded by a reef. Until then, I wasn't tired at all.
"But the current got much stronger and the water much colder there and both my calves cramped - but thankfully, only briefly and at different times.
"I remember opening my eyes and being startled to see I was surrounded by a countless number of terns."
The U.S. Coast Guard has severely restricted access to the island - except for last weekend's annual Open House run by Faulkner's Light Brigade - because roseate terns have been declared an endangered species.
"They were roseate terns and they were going crazy," Swope said. "I guess not too many people swim out there and they must have thought I was a big fish or something. I was worried at first, but they didn't bother me."
Swope said the sun was setting as she reached the island and soon, the sky was filled with a pink and orange glow.
"And then there was this amazing crescent moon, which seemed to hover directly above me and the water around me was orange and pink and without ripples."
She credits Cooley with encouraging her to make the swim. "He made me feel like I could do it," she said. "We practiced together and I developed more and more confidence."
"Taylor had been talking about this swim for a couple of years," Cooley said. " I kept telling her how long a swim it was and how she needed to prepare, but I tried to encourage her.
"Then last week, out of the blue, on a beautiful day, she decided to do it."
Cooley said Swope started at the Sachem's Head Yacht Club and then lit out for Faulkner's as he stayed close to her on his three-seat wave runner.
"But not once did she hold onto it, not once did she stop. Using two different strokes, she just kept swimming and more than two hours later, she reached the island.
"She stood for a second on its tip and didn't even seem tired - she wasn't even out of breath.
"It was rally impressive."
Swope never walked onto the island or attempted to explore its famous 206-year old lighthouse - obeying the no trespass signs - but got onto the back of Cooley's jet ski and rode back to Sachem's Head.
"That ride home was really lovely," she said. "I was so happy; I was grinning all the way home. I had been talking about doing it, but I needed someone who believed I could and that was Eric."
Swope said there was no striking aftermath to her swim except for some aches in her shoulder joints which she still felt a week later.
But swimming is only one of her passions.
An artist, photographer and lover of music - The Grateful Dead is her favorite group - she is always attending music festivals and at one of them, just six years ago, got the idea to design children's clothing.
"I sort of got into it by accident," she said. "I had always thought I would do something creative to earn a living but never realized how creative owning and running your own business can be until I got into it."
Her first line of clothing was called "Little Hippy." In a pamphlet she designed containing her own photographs, she wrote: "Starting with just a handful of simple baby T-shirts made on my kitchen, counter, I set out to create children's clothing that was not only playful and colorful, but inspired as well."
She added: "This stuff is a blast to make and I am excited about the many possibilities the future holds.
Then came her "Child That Rocks" line designed "with the exceptional child in mind, followed by her latest creation, "Born To Be Green," which stressed clothing that is as environmentally friendly as possible.
From cotton woven throw blankets to shorts, tops skirts and dresses - designed for infants and children - there is a smaller boys line as well - Swope now uses a New Hampshire woman she calls "amazingly creative" to carry out her designs and a Guilford woman she says is equally talented to do her sewing. She now markets her clothing through the Internet, with her catalogues at music festivals and in a number of stores, some 40 of them, all across the country. In Guilford, they can be seen at Sunshine Daydreams on Boston Post Road.
But whether she is talking about her clothing business, from which she is now earning a living after a small investment, or her new passion for long distance swimming, Swope is full of enthusiasm and energy.
But if you had seen her gliding effortlessly through the water last week, you would have seen her greatest passion.
Hadley Kornacki, 29, Swope's sister, said of her swim "I think it was fabulous; I am so proud of her. It was especially remarkable because growing up in Guilford, Taylor was not a water person. She could swim, but jumping into the water wasn't always her first choice.
"But about four years ago, she moved to Guilford in the summer full time and was motivated to swim. She's a very determined person, as evident in this swim. She always had original ideas and I love her children's clothing lines, they are fresh and original."
"Taylor never wanted to fit into a box. Feats like the swim and running her own business are evidence of her hard work to become her own person."
Swope is not the first member of her family to swim from Sachem's Head to Faulkner's Island; her grandmother and her mother's cousin each made the identical swim decades ago.
"I guess it's all in the family," Swope laughed.
Robert C. Pollack can be reached at 458-5749 or [email protected].

©Shore Line Times 2008