Courtesy of Ned Denison, Gateway of India.

On November 28th, Ned Denison continued his aquatic adventures around the world, this time in India.

Denison, the chairperson of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, completed a 35 km swim from from Dharmatar to Gateway of India in the center of Mumbai in 7 hours 41 minutes. He is believed to be the second foreign swimmer and the oldest to complete the swim at the age of 61 years.

Denison’s journey from Cork, Ireland to Mumbai, India all started earlier in 2018 via email with Triple Crown of Open Water Swimmer Shubham Vanmali who came to Cork in 2016. Shubham suggested that Denison come swim in India and within 3 days of the best weather/tidal date that was to be determined.

With the forecast set, Denison booked his flights.

Denison unusually kept his swim secret due to a few challenges: not getting younger, the 35 km distance, the 30°C very warm water after a year of 6°C – 18°C training, and an expected poor water quality. Denison said, “I had been to India twice in the 1990’s. While India is fascinating and beautiful, I found the poverty and fifth disturbing and watching the movie Slum Dog Millionaire years later didn’t help.”

Denison arranged the online tourist visa and hotel for the first days while Shubham and his team finalized his escort pilot and obtained the various permissions from the India Swimming Association, Navy and Port authorities. He said, “As a precaution, I obtained my first course of antibiotics in 10+ years, bought Imodium and, for the first time ever, took probiotics. My first days in Mumbai were very cautious, eating bland food, drinking bottled water, with lots of quiet, sleep and focus.”

The swim secret got out shortly after the ice swimmers in Antarctica completed and he experienced the water. “I met the 82-year-old pilot and his fisherman sons for a trial swim. As expected, the water was very warm, muddy – I couldn’t see my own arm – and salty – very buoyant and almost stingy – but surprisingly there was no smell and the taste wasn’t too bad.

This was the first of several Mumbai surprises before the swim: migratory flamingos in the urban wetlands, a fishing village near the center of Navi Mumbai with small boats, nets seemingly pulled by hand and the the fisherman pilot successful enough to have a nice family house and sons with boats as well, massive road construction in the entire area, and the much less poverty and fifth than seen decades ago.”

Denison then moved in with the Vanmali family (“very hospitable” he commented) and started his swim just before 4 am at the exact money the tide turned in the dark, but noisy, port. He recalled, “I almost swam under a light bulb extended over the side of the boat. After sunrise, I was encouraged by the large crew – someone seemed to be clapping every time I turned my head to breathe. Halfway brought be to the location of the trial swim with an island to the left (the crew saw more flamingos) and I could see the city ahead – but still a long 15 km away.

Then my calf and toe cramps started. My 0.5 liters per 30 minutes clearly weren’t enough, and the crew supplemented another 2 liters with electrolytes going forward.

Then it was swim to one after another moored ship and oil rig. The crew yelled that I would ride the next tide as we turned into the channel and I caught a glimpse of my bicep in the clearing water.

The Gateway got bigger as the pilot threaded us through moored pleasure boats.”

Shubham described the finish.

The Gateway is the major tourist attraction with the tour boats making way for Ned and hundreds with cameras. The local marathon community took advantage of this swim to have a reunion including Tanarath Narayan Shenoy, an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Swimmer, and other English Channel swimmers from the ages of 22 to 82.

Once Ned thanked the crew, met the local swimmers, leis were presented, and pictures taken we all headed to the yacht club where we all sat for drinks, food, trophies, pictures and stories.”

Denison experienced no adverse effects from the swim and started to enjoy the local Indian beer and spicy food. He and Shubham flew the next day to the pink city of Jaipur where they were to be hosted by Catalina swimmer Samir Wheaton and his family.

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