esa Founder Ed Williams tackles his first ever wetsuit compulsory event in preparation for North Channel swim. Oliver Davis was there to report on the whole experience:

Placing a wetsuit in his swimming bag is an alien concept to Ed Williams, solo Channel swimmer. Yet on June 18th at 6am on a cold, windy, grey morning, this is exactly what he did. Ed doesn’t even own a wetsuit, yet he is a prolific endurance swimmer. Wetsuits are compulsory at The Great East Swim; an open water swimming event where participants can take part in a variety of distances at Alton Water in Suffolk, ranging from half a mile to 10km. Nevertheless, at 7:45am Ed had donned a rented wetsuit for the first time ever, and was looking out over the murky, choppy waters ready for his 10km challenge.

Extreme cold, large ocean swells and vast lion mane jellyfish are just some of the things that Ed has had to endure before, in just a pair of trunks and no layer of neoprene protecting his body, for some of the most demanding swims in the world. In the past, he has successfully completed a solo channel swim, crossed the Gibraltar Strait from Europe to Africa and swam the length of Lake Windermere; all without the
aid of a wetsuit.

The Great East Swim is part of Ed’s training program for his second attempt in swimming the North Channel; a 22-mile swim from Ireland to Scotland. It is claimed that this is “the hardest and most challenging channel swim in the world”. Ed will be isolated in this event, with only a few close members on his safety boat. This was a different story however at Alton Water last weekend with about 200 eager competitors running into the water at once for a mass start.

Not only did Ed have to deal with being pushed around, elbowed and swam over in the start of this race, he also had to cope with choppy waters due to prevalent winds. “About a third of the way through, I began to notice a tightness in my shoulders due to restrictions from my wetsuit, it took me a while to adjust” Ed recounted, “however the biggest issue was the wetsuit rash around my neck, I certainly prefer swimming without one”. Despite using large amounts of lubrication, Ed suffered severe chafing; a common problem for open water swimmers where their wetsuit rubs their skin raw.

By Ed’s standards this 10km has been a short, but successful training session in preparation for his North Channel swim this summer. “I thoroughly enjoyed the event and it was great that so many friends and training partners were there with me” Ed recalled. Despite the unfamiliar challenges that this event brought, Ed successfully completed the 10km with a strong top ten result. The sun finally broke through the clouds as he crossed the line, the relief evident on his face as he unzipped his wetsuit; no more neoprene for Ed, it’s back to training in trunks as he prepares for his North Channel swim.

Oliver Davis is a Hills Road Sixth Form Student who is looking to get into journalism. esa would like to thank you for your time in writing this blog post Oliver and wish you the best of luck with your future career.