You will have seen by now that Andre completed his swim, coming into shore in the town of Lamlash on Saturday 25th June, two weeks after he started. He has, to date, raised over £6500 for youth suicide prevention charity, Papyrus, and has had a little time to rest and reflect on the scope of the challenge he faced, and all that he has achieved over the past two weeks:
What was it like getting out of the water at the end?
“The last day was real struggle with force 4 gusting 6 winds and huge waves, so actually getting out that was mainly just a relief. One of the first things I said was “does anyone have a banana?”. I was swimming with Georgina on the last day, and we were so tired and hungry by Lamlash pier. It was amazing to see so many people at the end who had supported me, either online, or by donating, or by sharing their local knowledge. That was particularly special. Seeing people who cared about this charity and the adventure, beyond just me and my friends and family. The locals really came out to support including cake, sausage rolls and coffee.”
Was there a moment where you thought you couldn't do it?
“Early on I realised that my original goal of swimming a few 10 kilometres was too ambitious for me, given the training I had managed to fit in around work. I knew I could still do it, however swimming 6-7 or 8 kilometres per day meant I wouldn't be able to take many rest days, or days for bad weather. Then it was mainly luck whether we got good days of weather to get out and make those kilometres.”
What's been the most physically painful thing?
“The plan for the swim was for it to not be a ‘suffer-fest’. I made sure to look after my body and make sure I wasn't in too much pain each day, and I managed to take two rest days. There was some pain in my elbow and I did get two jellyfish stings but my face was quite numb, and they weren't really bad jellyfish, so the stings weren't too bad; certainly not lionsmanes. I kept on top of the chafing and muscle soreness with preparation.”
How long did you sleep on Saturday night?
“Not actually that well, I was so wired off so much coffee!”
What's the moment you'll never forget?
“On the last day, Georgina and I were swimming around the headland north of Lamlash, fighting huge swell, force six headwinds, without safety kayakers because the weather was too rough for them, and realised we were competent, happy and safe in those insane conditions, with some land safety. That was an incredible experience and a huge buzz to finish off what has been an incredible adventure.
“Throughout the swim I have been astounded by the amount of help people on Arran have been willing to provide in terms of their time, money, and offering me free food at the many cafes scattered around the coast. People are awesome and will do amazing things for each other; that is what I hope to take away from this swim.”
What would you say to anyone wanting to swim around Arran?
“These are also things I wish I had told myself before I started:
That the tides will always be against you even when you've planned everything correctly, so accept that you will be in the water for longer than you think. That is an incredible amount of support in the local community, people are excited to hear about your adventure, so tell them!
Also, eat more.”
“The next couple of weeks will be recovery, making sure my muscles are happy, chatting to a physio, and making sure I don't get expedition blues which can really affect a lot of people who've been out on trips with a strong focus for quite a long time as they try to reintegrate into having to do work and normal life.
“In terms of swim around Arran, I'll be trying to get a little bit more publicity see how much more money we can raise for Papyrus. I hope to do this by reaching out to larger organisations I’m connected with, to try and get the universities on board with publicity.
“For the mental health aspect, I am starting to become more involved in my university as part of our student support team, and also looking after the mental health of our fellow staff members. I'm looking forward to restarting mental health swims again and encouraging people to think about the mental health, getting strategies for themselves in place and ensuring people are more comfortable supporting others.”
Will you be planning future adventures?
“Linked to post expedition blues, I'm hoping to get back into running, as that was something I enjoyed in lockdown. The Scottish hills have a lot of opportunity for very fun routes, maybe thinking about building up to a trail running marathon and beyond.”
Felicity Inkpen is Andre's friend, a keen swimmer herself, and an artist and writer based in Edinburgh, UK.