Courtesy of Steve Walker, North Channel.

After moving “kind of slow” the past few days, Steve Walker described his 11 hour 19 minute crossing of the North Channel between North Ireland and Scotland. “The swim went really well, mostly. Conditions were perfect and there was almost no wind. The weather this month has not been good for swimming; it was very windy.

The day before I swam, Attila Mányoki of Hungry and Shubham Vanmali of India tried and failed, both were pulled out of the water unconscious. Both are OK.

The day I swam, Keith Garry set a new men’s record under 10 hours and Phia Steyn finished a couple of hours behind me as well. There was a lot of action in one weekend, but those were the only swimmable days in the whole window.

I made it across with the water mostly at 54°F (12°C). The beginning went well. The water didn’t feel too cold and I swam hard. I hit about a half dozen jellyfish, but the stings didn’t really bother me much. I had a tough spot in the middle, about 3 hours where I was hallucinating: everything was blurry and everything hurt. I wasn’t pulling much water and was cold; my feeds just weren’t working. I wasn’t thinking I’d make it. It got better around 7 hours in, except that it still hurt and it was still cold.

About an hour from the finish, I swam through a swarm of Lion’s Mane jellyfish that were about 3 feet wide with 9-12 foot tentacles, like long hair floating on the surface. I saw about 100 and avoided about 97 of them, but took hits from three directly over a 10-minute period. I got tangled in the tentacles each time. It made me angry. My crew said I swam faster that last hour. It hurt like hell. They burned for a couple of days, then the itching started like 400 mosquito bites. Five days later, it is just like a little poison oak, only a few hot spots left. I was surprised how fast it cleared up given how bad it started out.

The cold – what gets most people – didn’t have much of an impact. All that bacon really helped, but the distance wore down my arms and shoulders. I’m still pretty wrecked. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few days, but my arms and shoulders are pretty much still just mush right now. I’m pretty sure I sprained my right wrist. It was numb almost the whole way and it is far worse than my left. It’ll be better, though.

Also, my hands and feet are still swollen, not from jellyfish toxin, but rather from the cold, probably burst capillaries.

This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, in the water or out
.”

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association