“Finishing an open ocean channel swim for me is very different than finishing an Ironman triathlon or a marathon run,” says German endurance athlete André Wiersig who has done marathon runs, Hawaiian Ironman triathlons and four Oceans Seven channels.
“I always feel deep gratitude for the ocean. All you can do is swim and stay positive in your mind. But the ocean makes the rules out there and decides if you achieve or not, if you swim a fast time or if you stuck in currents for hours. That´s what I love so much about open ocean swimming. You are not racing against somebody like I did many years in triathlon and track cycling. Maybe that is why I don’t feel like a winner when I reach dry land after a open ocean swim. It´s a privilege to swim and I’m the guest.”
When Wiersig recently completed a 9 hour 48 minute crossing of the Catalina Channel, he came across a rocky coast along the Southern California shoreline – and was wondering where and when he was going to reach shore [see photo above].
“We were so close, 500 yards away from the shore and about 9 hours into the swim. The crew guided me along the coast for about one hour. I was wondering and asked if they want me to swim down to Mexico. They said, ‘It isn’t safe to get out of the water [here] because of the big swells and rocky beaches.’
To be honest, that is not what you want to hear, but I´m glad to have experienced people around me and I made it [onto shore] without any scrapes.”
Last August, Wiersig completed the 35 km North Channel from Northern Ireland to Scotland in 12 hours 17 minutes. “In the challenging conditions in the North Channel, I was smashed against a rock at the end and I have some scars on my legs and feet as a memory.”
But he keeps everything in proper perspective. “Nothing compared to track cycling where you crash most likely a minimum of once a year. That is why I gave up pro cycling and that is the reason why I can’t stand watching the Tour de France when the guys crash going over 40 mph, because I know how it feels.”
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