Ocean's Seven: One Swimmer's Survival Stories

Adam Walker reveals his wildest encounters after finishing the world's seven toughest channel swims.
Adam Walker portrait
Adam Walker: Not selling toasters any more © Ocean Walker
By Greg Stuart

You might not have heard of Adam Walker, but he’s about to make you feel very lazy. A few years ago, Walker was a kettle and toaster salesman who’d given up various sports he loved doing because of injury.

Today, he’s one of just six people to have ever completed the Ocean’s Seven challenge: seven of the most hardcore open-water swims in the world.

I had to pull two tentacles off my stomach, I lost feeling in my spine and I thought I’d been paralyzed.

The man’s got some stories to tell, and we wanted to hear them. So as he prepared to MC the Red Bull Neptune Steps event in Glasgow last weekend, we caught up with him to hear about his seven wildest encounters with the sea.

Wild Encounter #1: Stung by Jellyfish on the Molokai Strait

Don’t mess with Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish. They pack the poison of a cobra snake and can do some serious damage if they sting you — as Walker found out 13 hours into swimming Hawaii’s Molokai Strait.

“I had to pull two tentacles off my stomach, I lost feeling in my spine and I thought I’d been paralyzed. I basically had to go through three-and-a-half hours of agony to complete the swim.”

Adam Walker jellyfish sting
Portuguese Man-of-War sting is no joke © Ocean Walker

Wild Encounter #2: Narrowly Avoiding Being Shark Bait in New Zealand

Walker was three hours into swimming the Cook Strait between New Zealand’s North and South Islands when he spotted the unmistakable silhouette of a shark beneath him.

“The shark stayed on me for 30 minutes and then a pod of dolphins came to save me — well, that’s what it felt like.”

Wild Encounter #3: An 11-hour Sprint in Japan

He was forced to push himself to the limit in the Tsugaru Channel in Japan, with only a support boat and a shark for company.

“I was sick for the first four hours of the swim. Then a shark swam underneath me. The waves were 10-12 feet and I had to do an 11-hour sprint to beat the current. In total, it took me 15 hours, 21 minutes to complete.”

Wild Encounter #4: Inventing a New Stroke in the Gibraltar Strait

An injured shoulder forced Adam to invent a new swimming stroke that used his core muscles, and it worked great in the Gibraltar Strait.

“I can’t sleep on my left side now, but because of that stroke, I broke the British record by five minutes one way. But it took me over six hours to come back because of the currents.”

Adam Walker Cook Strait action
Dolphin shows Adam how it's done © Ocean Walker

Wild Encounter #5: One-armed Swimming in the Catalina Channel

The choppy 20-mile Catalina Channel off the coast of California is no joke — especially with an arm that’s not working.

“For Catalina, I swam six hours in darkness. Then for the remaining six hours, I had to swim one-armed because a previous operation had come undone. I had basically ruptured my bicep tendon.”

Wild Encounter #6: Nearly Becoming a Human Ice Cube in the Irish Sea

The chilly North Channel between Ireland and Scotland is without a doubt one of the hardest swims anywhere in the world.

“For the first hour, I was barricaded in by lion’s mane jellyfish. It was 13 degrees water temperature (celsius), where a swimming pool is normally 29 degrees, and it took me 10 hours, 45 minutes to complete.”

Adam Walker North Channel portrait
This man’s just swum for 10 hours © Jim Ryder

Wild Encounter #7: Severe Vomiting on the English Channel

Crossing the English Channel was the first big swimming challenge Walker set for himself. But unlike your typical Dover to Calais jaunt, his crossing wasn’t all plain sailing.

“There were massive swells and I was sick 20 times. The currents were up to 19 knots and it was chopping like a washing machine. I couldn’t hold anything down but I was still burning 1,100 calories an hour. I basically just had to switch off the pain and get through it.”

Check out the highlights from Red Bull Neptune Steps in the video below.

Keep up with Adam Walker's swimming adventures on his official website.

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