Open water swimming is exhilarating, liberating and it’s growing fast! This is also partly down to the huge surge of interest in triathlon. So how can you get involved and how far can you go? Wiggle's triathlon manager Suzannah Cranwell had a chat with Zoggs’ sponsored swimmer Adam Walker, the first Briton to swim the world’s seven most difficult ocean swims, to find out.
Q&A with Adam Walker
How did you get into swimming?
I swam at a local swimming club in Nottingham at 7 years old and my favourite stroke was always backstroke, never front crawl. I swam until I was 12 and came back again briefly at 16. I then became a swim coach and didn’t do a lot of competitive swimming.
When did you realise that you wanted to swim open water?
In 2007 whilst on a flight to Australia I watched a movie called ‘On a clear day’ about a man called Frank who lost his job after 35 years and looking for direction he trains to swim the English Channel. I was inspired by the movie, having not swum competitively for 10 years. Open water looked like a tough challenge and I decided to train and see if I was capable of swimming the English Channel myself. I completed the swim in 2008. It took me 11 hours 25 mins.
When did you realise that you wanted to take it further?
My plan was to finish open water swimming after the English Channel. However, after completing the swim I thought, “How about I just do one more?” Gibraltar Straits, Spain, to Morocco looked like an interesting swim. To make it more challenging I decided to swim both ways as no British person had done this. After I completed this one, I then had the bug to continue. I heard about the Oceans Seven (toughest 7 ocean swims in the world) and made the decision to take on a further 5 which included 26 mile Molokai Strait in Hawaii, 21 mile Catalina Channel in America, 16 mile Tsugaru Channel in Japan, 18 mile Cook Strait in New Zealand and 21 miles from Ireland to Scotland. All have their own challenges with strong swells, fast currents, aggressive marine life and extremely cold temperatures.
That sounds incredible. But for anybody who’s not overly familiar with open water swimming, please could you offer a bit of information around what it is, why it’s good for us and how we can get involved?
What is open water swimming?
Open water is swimming in bodies of water outdoors such as lakes, rivers and the ocean. Places with no walls, as there are in a swimming pool. It is more challenging as you are against the elements such as wind and temperature.
Why is it good for you?
There are lots of reasons here is just a few.
- Being at one with nature, it’s exhilarating.
- Energy increase – cold water boosts energy levels, nerve endings stand up, heart starts racing… it is the best possible way to give yourself a natural high.
- Weight loss – when your body is exposed to cold it requires more heat to warm you up. To do so it has to process more energy and in doing so helps you burn fat more efficiently and increases your metabolism.
- Minimise pain if you have an injury – reduce chronic pain, body aches and inflammation, regulates nervous system and improves kidney function and overall improves circulation.
- It has been proven by scientists that by being immersed in cold water 3 times a week it increases your white blood counts which helps fight infection and boost your immune system by activating antibodies and increasing metabolic rate.
Is it limited to triathlons?
No not at all, there are many people up and down the country who participate in just open water swimming. They do it for fun, exercise as well as organised competing.
How do I get involved?
There are a lot of lakes up and down the country that have specific days and times where you can turn up and swim. There are also some organised open water clubs you can join.
What kit do I need?
Swim hat, wetsuit, swim shorts/costume and goggles. Take a look at the Zoggs range.
Other safety equipment recommended includes an orange tow float for safety/visibility and warm woolly hat and a robe to keep you warm.