Shirley Swimming Pool are delighted to announce that Ashley Christopher has been named as the pool’s swimmer of the year, and is to be nominated also for a national award.
The Southampton swimmer only picked up the sport again five years ago, having not swam regularly since his school days.
Training at Shirley Pool, and through the winter at Bournemouth beach for two years, Ashley racked up mile after mile in his quest to swim the English Channel
On August 1st, armed just with swimming trunks, goggles and some vaseline, Ashley’s brave Channel attempt launched from Dover at dawn, after an overnight drive from Southampton.
The swim didn’t start well,
“I always hate the first two hours of any big swim as I’m getting into my stride and getting used to the sea conditions and temperature. I was also feeling sick from the milkshake I’d had at 3am, I never feel sick normally and in my head I was thinking ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ ” said Ashley.
“You can feel quite vulnerable swimming in the sea when you can’t see the bottom and wonder what’s down there. Any creepy thoughts you have, must be pushed out of your mind. I often just close my eyes when my face is down in the water and only look when I breathe. This was when I got my first jellyfish sting on the arm which felt a little worse than a nettle sting”
“It wasn’t long after the first that I felt the second sting across my face.” Ashley added.
“I think it was when I was ten hours in, when the crew said you’re three miles from the Cap Griz Nez, I was feeling good so I decided to up the stroke rate slightly. It was sometime after that, that my shoulder started to twinge”
The support boat fed some painkillers hidden in a banana, but they didn’t have the desired effect,
“The pain which started in my shoulder was now working its way down my arm. I wasn’t able to put any power through it and I became more reliant on my right arm. The worry of how long will each arm keep moving and the fear of failure dawned on me.”
Ashely’s dream swim was now turning into a nightmare.
“The pain was now shooting down my arm from my shoulder to my wrist with every stroke. I had to run through all the reasons why I am doing this”
“I tried mentally pushing the pain of my shoulder out of my head but it just didn’t work. I kept drifting away from the boat for some reason. I think I was just losing concentration due to the pain and fatigue.”
“At last I felt my hand touch the [sea] bottom and I stood up and walked up the beach, stretching my arms above my head, shouting. It was brutal, far beyond all my expectations.”
The successful solo crossing of the channel was completed in a staggering 13 hours and 40 minutes and raised £3500 for a Southampton charity.
As well as completing the channel swim, Ashley found time to help many other swimmers from Shirley Pool make the tough transition to sea swimming.
Several had only learnt to swim recently as adults so had a steep learning curve. His inspiration has led to a team of swimmers entering a cross channel relay in 2019.
Every Sunday morning Ashley can be found at the beach offering encouragement and hot chocolate to budding open water enthusiasts.
For his dedication and determination but also for his consideration and generosity, Ashley Christopher has been named Shirley Pool Swimmer of the Year 2017. Star swimmer.