7ft tiger sharks, 10mph ocean currents, blistering sun, frigid waters, world firsts…. Somerset swimmer/adventurer Beth French is facing it all. Half way through her record setting project to swim all Oceans 7 channels in a single year, she has reached the tipping point. Once she completes the straits of Gibraltar in May, she will be in new territory with every further swim a new record.
Oceans 7 is the swimming equivalent of mountaineerings seven summits- seven of the toughest swim on the planet, designed to test every aspect of a swimmer. And only 6 people have completed the list in their lifetime. Beth French is set to do them all in a single year. She has already overcome incredible odds- swimming her first 21mile channel in October with a tummy bug. Then her second channel- the 28mile Molokai channel, known locally in Hawaii as the channel of bones- Kaiwi- she faced down a curious 7ft tiger shark in the middle of the night. In completing this gruelling channel, she became the first woman in history to manage to swim it twice.
Her most recent swim, 16miles across the turbulent Cook strait from the south to north island of New Zealand, saw her face her first ever DNF when she was perilously close to finishing, with the landing beach in sight, only to be swept back out to sea by impossibly strong currents. The first attempt was in barely 15’c water, with hypothermia a real risk. A mere 10days later, she took the plunge and put her body to the utmost test- had she recovered enough to make it this time? Remarkably, she made the swim in a smooth 9hrs 11mins, despite the fatigue and mental strain of very little rest.
This is all so remarkable- but given that Beth was in a wheel chair as a teen with no guarantee of recovery from the debilitating syndrome, ME, it is a truly astonishing accomplishment. She has found a way to live symptom free and relishes the challenge of what would appear to many impossible- to master the 7 toughest swims on the planet in a single year.
She says “My childhood was overshadowed by ME. I contracted glandular fever at the age of ten and never fully recovered. My adolescence was marred by periods of immune dysfunction and exhaustion until I found myself in a wheelchair. It took hard work to regain my mobility not only physical but it also required mental strength and determination.
Now, I am settled in Somerset where I train, work as an open water swim coach and guide and as a masseuse – practicing the Lomi Lomi massage I learnt in Hawaii. Today I am mother to a wonderful eight year old son, Dylan. He was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder and ASD and as a result he is unable to attend mainstream school, so I home school him. My desire to complete this challenge comes largely from Dylan. I want to demonstrate to him that whatever challenges present themselves in life, with enough hard work and dedication you can overcome them and achieve your goals.”
To celebrate the mark of hitting new territory, and to raise vital funds to complete her epic quest, Beth and the team are holding a gala dinner at the somerset county cricket club and invite all to come and join the adventure. There will be a charity raffle for Action for ME and silent auction with suitably phenomenal prizes to bid for. Live music and a chance to hear first hand what it takes to brave the wildest waters are set to make this a night to remember. Find out more, and snag your self a ticket at www.bethfrench.co.uk/events
Each of these swims is a major feat in itself. Some have only ever successfully been achieved by a small handful of swimmers. Attempting all seven in a single year will test the limit of what is currently believed physically possible in terms of endurance and recovery.
Please support Beth in her challenge!