10 Biggest Details Young Woman & The Sea Leaves Out & Changes About Trudy Ederle’s True Story

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Young Woman and the Sea




  • Even true stories get the Hollywood treatment –
    Young Woman and the Sea
    takes creative liberties to enhance the narrative.
  • Trudy’s daring swimsuit change was revolutionary for its time – she didn’t conform to normative swimwear standards.
  • Trudy’s determination to swim the English Channel was driven by more than personal goals – her father promised her a red sports car.

Young Woman and the Sea is based on the true story of Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, and while it maintains the heart of what happened in reality, there are things the film leaves out and changes. Directed by Joachim Rønning and starring Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle, the biopic is based on the book by Glenn Stout and follows Trudy from the moment she overcomes measles to her triumphant swim across the English Channel in 1926. Young Woman and the Sea’s reviews were very positive, and the movie got the highest scores of Jerry Bruckheimer’s career in test screenings before its release.

Even the best biopics tweak aspects of the subject’s lives for the sake of a better or more streamlined story. The way that it happened in real life is never exactly the way it is depicted onscreen, and Young Woman and the Sea, though loyal to Ederle’s life story, does take creative liberties occasionally. That means altering elements of the story to suit the film’s narrative, or leaving out certain things to make Young Woman and the Sea’s ending more intense.

6:02 Edited image of Joachim Rønning during Young Woman and the Sea interview
Young Woman And The Sea Interview: Joachim Rønning On Daisy Ridley’s Performance And More

Young Woman and the Sea director & producer Joachim Rønning praises Daisy Ridley’s powerful performance and explains the importance of Trudy’s story.

10 Trudy Ederle Was The One Who Changed Her Swimsuit

In Young Woman and the Sea, it’s Meg who helps redesign it

Daisy Ridley looks sideways at her sister in Young Woman and the Sea still

In Young Woman and the Sea, Meg helps Trudy change her swimsuit before she dives into the water for her English Channel swim, sewing a new version of it that would be more versatile and forgiving when Trudy swam. In reality, it was Trudy who thought up the idea for a swimsuit change, donning a silk swimsuit when she appeared on the beach ahead of her Channel attempt. It was also Trudy who used candle wax on her goggles, and lathered herself with multiple layers of grease, olive oil, and Vaseline, though her sister probably did help.

Trudy changing her bathing suit style was a big deal in 1926, when women typically did not wear two-piece swimsuits. They also wore shoes to swim. The fact that Trudy didn’t care if it was considered scandalous to wear a two-piece suit that wasn’t suffocating her or slowing her down in the water was an amazing thing back then. It showed that her ideology wasn’t so old-fashioned, and her swimsuit choice was just as liberating as her decision to swim across the English Channel.

9 Trudy Ederle Returned To New York After Her First Failed Attempt To Swim The English Channel

The film suggests she returned to the sea mere weeks later

Trudy (Daisy Ridley) swimming the English Channel while a boat accompanies her way in Young Woman and the Sea Image via Disney

Young Woman and the Sea added a touch of drama in the time between her first (failed) attempt to swim the English Channel and her second. In the film, Trudy jumped out of the ship headed to New York to return to France and train with Bill Burgess. Trudy’s sponsor was less than pleased by this turn of events. However, the reality of the situation was that Trudy did indeed return to New York after failing to complete her swim the first time. She left France in 1925 and didn’t return until a year later, in 1926.

But it was likely changed so the film didn’t have to cover the year of her New York return, especially as it neared the end of the film.

Once she was back in France, Trudy spent weeks training so that she knew the water and could get used to the cold (via History Extra). It was only after that, on August 26, 1926, that Trudy once again attempted to swim across the Channel. Young Woman and the Sea, however, sees Trudy swimming the English Channel only weeks after her first failed attempt. But it was likely changed so the film didn’t have to cover the year of her New York return, especially as it neared the end of the film.

8 Bill Burgess Trained Trudy Ederle Only After She Returned To France

Stephen Graham as Bill Burgess in Young Woman and the Sea Image via Disney

Young Woman and the Sea depicts Trudy pretty much firing Jabez Wolffe from being her swim coach and agreeing to work with Bill Burgess, himself a successful Channel swimmer-turned-coach, on the condition that he wouldn’t pull her from the water no matter what. But while Burgess met with her in France after she’d recovered from her poisoning, pushing her to question Wolffe in the film, he didn’t actually train Trudy until she returned to France in the spring of 1926.

Since the film’s timeline is shortened to include Trudy’s two attempts within the span of a few weeks, Burgess is slotted in there earlier. But just like in the biopic, the swimmer proved immensely helpful to Trudy, offering her sage advice about swimming the Channel after having done it multiple times before. Burgess also did what Trudy wanted, whereas Wolffe was more inclined to steer her in a direction that wasn’t particularly aimed at success.

Burgess also did what Trudy wanted, whereas Wolffe was more inclined to steer her in a direction that wasn’t particularly aimed at success.

7 Trudy Ederle’s Father Promised Her A Red Sports Car If She Swam Successfully

It was a part of what helped motivate her during the swim’s difficulties


Trudy’s father, Henry (played by Killing Eve’s Kim Bodnia), wasn’t initially on board when it came to his daughter’s swimming lessons. However, he came out to show his support and encourage her at the end of Young Woman and the Sea. What the movie leaves out, however, is that Henry promised Trudy he would get her a red roaster if she successfully swam across the English Channel (via History).

The promise of a new vehicle helped motivate Trudy during her swim across the Channel. True to his word, Henry got his daughter the roadster following her triumphant swim to the shores of England, and she was presented with the car upon her return to New York. In the film, Henry is a man of few words and upholds tradition, but when it came to Trudy’s second attempt to swim the Channel, he was there for her. The promise of a new car to help push Trudy all the way didn’t hurt, either.

6 Young Woman And The Sea Leaves Out The Storm Ederle Faced While Swimming

But the film captures the jellyfish stings she sustained


One of Trudy’s biggest obstacles while swimming ended up being the shallows. It was an area the tugboat couldn’t cross because it was, well, too shallow. Trudy was left by herself with no boat to guide her and no light to see across the massive, endless ocean. What Young Woman and the Sea ultimately leaves out is the storm Ederle and the boat’s crew faced during her swim. The massive storm created punishing waves that slowed Trudy down and forced Burgess to change direction (via History Extra).

Of course, the storm didn’t stop Trudy from achieving her goal and she still managed to reach the shores of England in less time than any of the men who had completed the Channel swim before her, but it is a moment that isn’t included in the film. Perhaps the idea of Trudy being lost for a while on her own in the shallows upped the tension for story purposes, even if it strayed away from some of the true story details.

5 Trudy Ederle’s First Attempt Reportedly Ended Due To Getting The Tides Wrong

Young Woman and the Sea suggests it was because of Jabez Wolffe poisoning her


In Young Woman and the Sea, Trudy’s first Channel attempt is halted after Jabez Wolffe crushed sea sickness pills into her tea, which stopped her from swimming and led to someone pulling her out of the water and returning to France. And while Trudy did believe that Wolffe had poisoned her tea, and it was claimed he pulled her out because she looked sick (via Outside), The Great Swim author Gavin Mortimer said it was reportedly that “they got the tide wrong and [Trudy] hadn’t prepared for it enough.” (via History).

To be sure, Trudy’s first attempt to swim the Channel didn’t go the way she wanted, and there’s a reason she ended up hiring Bill Burgess in place of Wolffe. Whether it was the tides or not, Ederle herself believed Wolffe put something in her tea and that is what Young Woman and the Sea went with, likely because it was from Trudy’s perspective of how things happened.

4 Young Woman And The Sea Doesn’t Include Trudy Ederle’s Weekly Column

She was contracted with the New York Daily News

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Young Woman and the Sea Image via Disney

Ahead of Trudy Ederle’s second attempt at swimming the English Channel, the swimmer was contracted to write a weekly column for the New York Daily News (via History Extra) for a fee of $5,000 (more if she actually achieved her goal). In addition to a column, the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune were Ederle’s sponsors (via The Glinda Factor), and some of the reporters were on the boat that followed Trudy’s progress in the water, obtaining exclusive coverage for their respective papers of her swim across the English Channel.

It’s understandable why Young Woman and the Sea left this part out of the story. With the focus being on Trudy’s determination and training as she prepared for her second attempt across the Channel, including the fact that she was contracted with the New York Daily News to write a column might have slowed down the momentum of the film, especially as this tidbit (while quite interesting) didn’t serve the overall story.

3 Four Female Swimmers Tried To Cross The English Channel In 1926

They were unsuccessful in their attempts

Trudy (Daisy Ridley) puts on her goggles while a crowd watches behind her in Young Woman and the Sea Image via Disney

Before Trudy’s second attempt to cross the English Channel, four other female swimmers tried to swim across the Channel in 1926. They arrived in France in a bid to best Ederle, but all four of them failed to cross the Channel. Interestingly, in 1925, Helen Wainright was also sponsored alongside Ederle to attempt to swim the Channel, but Wainright had to drop out because of an injury.

The following year, in 1927, Mercedes Gleitze successfully crossed the English Channel, becoming the first British woman to do so, though she didn’t beat Ederle’s time, which held up for 24 years. Trudy’s record-breaking time was surpassed by Florence Chadwick, who crossed the Channel from France to England in 13 hours and 23 minutes in 1950. Had the four women been successful in 1926, the year Ederle made history, it’s possible she may not have been the first woman to cross the Channel.

2 Trudy Ederle Almost Drowned When She Was 7 Years Old

Young Woman and the Sea only includes her fight with measles

Trudy Ederle looks out at the sea in Young Woman and the Sea movie still

Young Woman and the Sea suggests it was Trudy Ederle’s mother, Gertrude Anna Ederle, who put her daughters in swimming lessons after hearing a report about women dying in a fire on a boat because they couldn’t swim. But Ederle reportedly nearly drowned when she was seven years old (via The Glinda Factor), and that’s what made her want to learn how to swim.

This isn’t included in Young Woman and the Sea, which begins only after Trudy survived the measles at the age of five. The swimmer’s fight with measles is a central part of the narrative, as it affected her hearing and her ability to swim in public pools. It was likely left out because her mother’s encouragement and the story of Anna’s sister drowning — which explained why Anna was afraid of the water — was enough to build dramatic tension within the story.

1 Young Woman And The Sea Leaves Out 3 Of Trudy Ederle’s Siblings

The Ederle family sits at the table for dinner in Young Woman and the Sea movie still

In the film, Trudy is one of three siblings, the middle child between her elder sister, Meg, and younger brother. The three siblings are constantly seen eating dinner together, though her brother doesn’t get as much screentime as Meg does because Young Woman and the Sea focuses specifically on Trudy’s closeness with her sister.

However, Trudy was actually one of six siblings. Meg was indeed one of her siblings, and Trudy was survived by ten nieces and nephews after she passed away in 2003. The film leaves out the other three siblings for unclear reasons, perhaps so that the cast wasn’t overly big. Not much is known about Ederle’s other siblings, but since Young Woman and the Sea centers Meg and Trudy’s relationship, having the other siblings around constantly may have taken away from that focus.

Young Woman and the Sea-1


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Daisy Ridley stars as the accomplished swimmer who was born to immigrant parents in New York City in 1905. Through the steadfast support of her older sister and supportive trainers, she overcame adversity and the animosity of a patriarchal society to rise through the ranks of the Olympic swimming team and complete the staggering achievement – a 21-mile trek from France to England. 

Director Joachim Rønning Release Date May 31, 2024 Writers Jeff Nathanson Cast Daisy Ridley , Tilda Cobham-Hervey , Stephen Graham , Christopher Eccleston , Jeanette Hain Runtime 100 Minutes Main Genre Biography


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