Murray Chapman finally completed his goal of swimming the 34 kilometre distance between England and France

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Murray Chapman took up swimming to aid his surfing abilities after gaining some extra weight. He started small by swimming laps at our Gladstone Aquatic Centre.

His only goal at first was to try and “manage two lengths (in the pool) without stopping.” Thinking he could swim he then came to the confronting reality that he was really struggling.

He swam consistently until he was able to accomplish 20 consecutive laps. During this time, he attracted some helpful pointers from the Gladstone Gladiators’ head coach, Tom Fronek. “Tom started giving me a few pointers, and that sparked a further interest to become a more proficient swimmer. Right here in Gladstone was a world-class trainer, and I’d be mad if I didn’t take up the offer of friendship and a successful training regime.”

In the next six years, Murray progressed from 2km swims to 20km events. “After two successful Rottnest Island crossings, I worked out that I could manage the training required for an English Channel attempt. I had been swimming in the dam during Covid, during the early hours of the morning on some of Gladstone’s coldest days.”

“After a quick lube up with copious amounts of sheep faton all the chafing points, Vaseline around my goggles to help sealing, and a pep talk, it was time to go overboard. I reflected for 10 seconds, then started swimming to meet up with the boat. The boat was about 100 metres off-shore. What I remember of the start was swimming into the shore thinking ‘ this is taking forever’, and when I met up with the boat, I was already knackered. This was not going to be easy.

The initial 5 hours of swimming through the night were quite rough, especially with the bounce back from the side of the vessel. The morning twilight seemed to take forever, that was hard to deal with, time seemed to be standing still.” After a gruelling swim, the sun showed itself and Murray was able to find his flow. Despite the slight relief, it dawned on him that he still had 8km to go. He made a strategic decision to break the swims into 30-minute blocks.

“I saw the crew getting the rubber tender, and I knew I had it in the bag. I didn’t feel too much initially, just that I had done all that training to get me to a rock on the French coast under Cape Gris. It took me 12 hours and 39 minutes, with the average water temperature sitting around 18.5 degrees. I don’t know what I’ll do now. I think the marathons are behind me, so I might try 50 and 100-metre sprints. I’ll have a break, then start this next year when I turn 60.”

Photo Credit: Gladstone News
Article Credit: Dacia Stewart of Gladstone News