An ex-soldier swam 74 kilometers from the UK to the Isle of Man

An ex-army captain has become the first person ever to swim between the UK mainland and the Isle of Man in a grueling 74km challenge negotiating tricky tides and an almost constant interest in jellyfish.

Adam Diver, 46, said it was a bit of a “suffering-fest” when he emerged from the battered but smiling Irish Sea on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday morning I was still feeling the effects. He commented, “I’m exhausted.” “But it’s been a great team effort. I’m going to take a few days to get my body back in shape because, as you would expect, I’m so weak and tired.

He explained that the idea to swim to the Isle of Man came from his 14-year-old son, Dexter. Dexter is an avid competitive swimmer, and when the swimming pools were closed during lockdown, father and son swam in the sea in his hometown of Fleetwood, Lancashire.

Diver’s parents live on the Isle of Man and one day Dexter asked if it was possible to swim there. He planted the seeds of an effort far from easy and much more challenging than a traditional swim across the English Channel.

About 300 people annually try to swim the 33 km that separates the Kent coast from Cape Grace-Niz, between the cities of Calais and Boulogne. Almost one in five do. So far, no one has been able to swim from the UK mainland to the Isle of Man.

“It’s very technical,” the diver explained. “You have to adapt to the tides and if you don’t have people on a boat who know the Irish Sea, it’s very difficult to do. You need a boat, you need a crew, you need a kayak team, so it’s hard to get everything together.”

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Diver had previously worked at Fleetwood Naval School, so he was able to ask colleagues if it was possible to do this and refer to nautical charts.

Adam Diver dried off after swimming 74km from the UK mainland to the Isle of Man. Photo: The Big Swim to Isle of Man

In a straight line, the distance is 51 kilometers, however, the diver had to cross in a zigzag line, changing direction every six hours to move with the tide. Calculate that he swam 74 kilometers.

Diver and his team tried last year, but a freak storm thwarted the attempt. This year they have been waiting for three days of high pressure without wind.

That was this week and the diver left the village of St Bees in Cumbrian at 8am on a Monday, arriving in Port Muar Bay at 3pm on a Wednesday.

It wasn’t a fun trip. “The lion’s mane jellyfish stung me on my face and then I got stung on my legs and arms every 10 minutes or so. The whole time I was swimming on them.”

Diver described the sting as an instant sunburn. “It’s a very strange feeling, but I’m pretty much used to it.”

It was hard work, but there were lovely moments, like when the diver heard a clicking noise that he rightly guessed were dolphins. “I shouted to the boat crew that I was hearing something in the water, dolphins talking to each other. Ten minutes later they were seen about 100 meters away.”

One of the reasons she swam was to raise awareness of mental health issues. “I work in the mental health field and I think it’s very important to raise awareness of common mental health issues like anxiety and depression,” Diver said. “I think people should talk about it, and if you need help, talk to someone.”

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The second reason is to raise money for the Burnley-based charity Healthier Heroes, which helps veterans rebuild their lives. So far more than 12,000 pounds (about 200,000 pesos) have been raised, and donations are being accepted through Gofundme’s Big Swim page.

Diver, who will compete in the Triathlon World Championships in Spain in September, spent 27 years in the military serving in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. She is now working as a cognitive behavioral therapist.

He said it was a tough challenge that he couldn’t have overcome without his amazing support team and family. After the challenge, his priorities were simple: a bath, a good hot meal and “do nothing”..

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