David swimming in a calm, tame sea…

It was my very great privilege to be invited to crew for a good friend’s English Channel solo crossing attempt a few short weeks ago.  The chance to go to Dover, to be a part of such a swim, to help in whatever way I could, and to learn and absorb as much information as possible for my own solo attempt next year were all factors in the decision to go.  All of that aside, it was not lost on me that people are (mostly) very intentional about who they choose for their crew.  They want people who know swimming, who know Channel swimming, who know them and their swimming, and how to best get them across.  For whatever reason, my name was in that pool of people for David.  That vote of confidence, that “You’re one of the people I want around when I do THIS” – is something I will never, never forget.

Crew and Swimmer after a successful crossing.  We weren't the worst crew in the world.
Crew and Swimmer after a successful crossing. We weren’t the worst crew in the world.

And wasn’t it something to be a part of that journey?!  From conditions rough and tumble at the start, to a finish calm as glass, he swam just as steadily throughout as if he were a metronome keeping rhythm for whatever song the sea was singing.

In a short 10 hours and 38 minutes, he clambered up a rocky beach in France having completed what very few people have ever done.

I got to be there.  I got to see it.

Next year, I’ll get to do it, too.

It was an amazing trip, start to finish.

If that was all I got to see and do: help facilitate David’s crossing, that would have been enough for me.  It was a wonder and a joy and a very, very great honor.  Everything else was a surreal and superb bonus.

I got to watch Sylvain Estadieu start his Butterfly crossing of the English Channel.

Sylvain swimming into Shakespeare Beach to start his crossing.

He was the first man in the history of the world to complete such a feat.

I got to be there.  I got to see it.

I got to swim in Dover Harbour with other English Channel swimmers and aspirants.  I got to see the swimmer statues right by the waterfront.   I won’t forget the gentleman who brought me my shoes after a swim and turned out to be a successful English Channel soloist who had swum the North Channel as well.  I won’t forget popping my head up during a swim to find myself in the company of Kevin Murphy, the King of the Channel.  I won’t forget Freda Streeter hugging me goodbye.  I will always remember seeing my good friend Sarah and listening on the edge of my seat as she told me all about how she swam the Channel just this past August.

Swimmer Statues at Dover Harbour (spelled with a 'u' because that's how they roll in the UK.)
Swimmer Statues at Dover Harbour (spelled with a ‘u’ because that’s how they roll in the UK.)

I met Trent Grimsey, English Channel Record Holder of 6 Hours and 55 Minutes.

I got to be there.

I got to see it.

Let’s not forget the time I was coming back into shore only to be joined by my two very best swim buddies in the world, Bob and Deb.  If ever there was a dream come true, it was the two of them in the cold ocean swimming by my side toward the shore.  And how excellent it was when Deb came to swim the next morning!  And the one after that, too!  Several times!

Deb testing the English Channel waters...
Deb testing the English Channel waters…

I don’t know why it meant so much to me.  Maybe because I love the sea.  Maybe because swimming is worth sharing.  I would do it all on my own, but swimming with Bob and Deb was my first introduction to really, really enjoying – even preferring – swimming with people.  And to have Deb transform into a cold water swimmer in the English Channel was just perfect.

I was so glad I got to be there.  So glad to see that.

Like I said, all of this was bonus.  How many bonuses can one person be afforded?  Every moment was sweet in its own way, that entire trip long.

But the best moment ever was David finishing and lifting his arm up in the air once clear of the water.  It was the swim I got to watch from the boat.  It was the time I got to spend helping to prepare.  It was whatever I did that was helpful, even if it was just being there.  It was that American flag flying at Varne Ridge Caravan Park and the “Congratulations on Swimming the Channel” banner plastered across our window.

American flag flying in honor of David's crossing.
American flag flying in honor of David’s crossing.

Both were still there when we left.

I got to be there.  I got to see it.

I left encouraged.  I left strengthened.  I left feeling ready for a year of training and preparation and swimming, swimming, swimming so that I can return to Dover next year ready for my own crossing.

Just from being there…   Just from seeing it…

I can see me.

Being there.

Swimming that.

3 thoughts on “Dover

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s