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“Alone in the dark, in the water with a shark, every second stretches...”

In 1993, Beth French faced the rest of her life in a wheelchair after being diagnosed with ME. In 2016, she began her world record challenge to swim the Oceans Seven in one year. After crossing the Catalina Channel in October, her second challenge was the Molokai Channel in December – including an encounter with aTiger Shark and Portuguese Man of War.

Tell us about the encounter with the Tiger Shark…

For the Molokai Channel, the support boat cannot stay right alongside you – the swell and waves mean it would be dangerous. So you have a kayaker who stays with you and the boat leapfrogs ahead, then you swim to catch up. At about 1am, the boat had just gone about 200yds ahead. I stopped for a brief feed when the kayaker said: “There’s a shark!” The kayak had a shark shield dangled off the back so I swam over to the rear of the kayak and treaded water. I asked where the shark was and turned to see the bow wave and fin disappear below water about 5 metres away: not hurried, not twitchy, but leisurely. Mike in the kayak switched his head torch to strong beam in time for me to see this grey shape right alongside me, so I lifted my feet – it was that close underneath me – and it glided under me and the kayak. Mike radioed the support boat and a couple of minutes later asked if I could see the shark. I couldn’t, but he said it was right there.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

One of the things that keeps me going through the winter is my daily outdoor dip, whatever the weather or temperature. A few years ago this would have been considered pretty odd behaviour by many, but opinions seem to be changing as outdoor swimming and cold water swimming is featured more and more in the media. Indeed, a group of sea swimmers now feature daily on the BBC in the short films between programmes! Find out the story behind the swimmers in our news section. Elsewhere in the magazine we hear from Beth French about her close encounter with a shark in the Molokai Channel, we meet English Channel swimming legends Kevin Murphy and Sally Minty-Gravett and gain an insight into what happens when a swim goes wrong from Mickey Helps’s story of his unsuccessful two-way English Channel swim. I have really been enjoying Terry Laughlin’s series on mindfulness in swimming, which he brings to a close this issue with a look at swimming as ‘moving meditation’. It is a really interesting element to introduce to your training sessions. If you haven’t decided what swims you would like to complete in 2017, check out our event listings. And remember, events are not just for competitive swimmers – a race is only a race if you race it, otherwise it is just a lovely swim. We have some exciting news to share about H2Open – turn to page 27 to learn about our big plans for 2017 and how the magazine is changing. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.