Irishman first to swim seven channels

Mon, Jul 16, 2012, 01:00

AN IRISH endurance swimmer has become the first person in the world to complete an arduous seven-channel swim across the globe.

Father-of-two Stephen Redmond (47) from Ballydehob, Co Cork has completed gruelling swims across the English Channel, the Catalina Channel near Los Angeles, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Cook Strait in New Zealand, the Moloka’i Channel between O’ahu and Moloka’i islands in Hawaii, and is one of the few swimmers who have successfully crossed the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland.

Stephen completed the Ocean’s Seven challenge by crossing the 19.5km Tsugaru Strait in Japan at about 5.50pm Irish time on Saturday in a time of 14 hours 24 minutes.

It was Mr Redmond’s fourth attempt to complete the strait, which lies between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. As with all of his endurance swims, he was trailed by a boat carrying a support crew and paramedic.

Achieving the Ocean’s Seven requires an ability to swim in both very cold and very warm seas. It also demands the physical and mental ability to overcome every condition known to defeat open water swimmers, from strong currents to stiff winds. It is considered to be the swimming equivalent of the seven summits in mountain climbing.

Mr Redmond completed the challenge over a period of nearly three years. He was beginning to think he was never going to finish it. “I am not a very good swimmer but I can just keep going, whatever is in me,” he said yesterday.

In a post on his Facebook page he expressed his thanks to the dedicated team who have assisted him over the years on different swims.

“Thank you to every single solitary person who has helped out in any way big or small over the last 2½ years. Unfortunately there are just too many people to thank individually at the minute. Without help none of this would have been possible.”

Mr Redmond says he looks for inspiration prior to undertaking each swimming project. “I use anything that gives me a mental edge. Marathon swimming is about as close as you can get to death while you are alive here on Earth. You lose all sense of perception while you are swimming in such difficult conditions,” he said.

Speaking from her home in west Cork yesterday, his wife Ann said she was “ecstatic” when she heard he had completed the challenge.

“On Friday he was saying he would probably come home as it wasn’t looking doable [because of bad weather] and he would have to go back in a few weeks. But then I got a phone call to say he was doing it. He has had fantastic support. We will be having a big reception for him here in Ballydehob when he comes home tomorrow night. He has had the support of every single person in the community.”

The couple have two children Siadbh (11) and Stevie (8), who are looking forward to being reunited with their father.

Ann said her husband was particularly grateful to his employer, Vincent Hurley, of Skibbereen Tool Hire who had given him time off over the years to complete the challenge. Mr Redmond is a native of Castledermot in Co Kildare. He was nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

Mr Redmond swam from a young age and worked for a time as a commercial diver. The money for each swim has been raised in west Cork.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday he said: “This one [the Japanese swim] was so difficult. And every time we got in we nearly got killed or a storm came up. The last time the water was 10 degrees. This time thank God it was 16 to 19. The pressure was building. Four or five people were close to doing it [completing the challenge]. We only got into these things because we were told we couldn’t do it by the rest of the world – to show them that Ireland is the best. The interest was incredible but everyday you want to stop. You get so sick of swimming.”

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring congratulated him on his “heroic achievement”.

“We can’t imagine the effort which Steve put into this challenge. This is a proud day for him and his family,” the Minister said.


The Ocean’s Seven is comprised of seven channels of varying distances and difficulties around the globe. They are the North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland, the English Channel between England and France, Cook Strait between the north and south islands of New Zealand, Molok’ai Channel in Hawaii, Catalina Channel off California, Gibraltar Strait between Spain and Morocco and the Tsugaru Strait in Japan.

Order of swims:

English Channel – August 2009 North Channel – August 2010 Gibraltar – May 2011 Catalina – October 2011

Molokai – February 2012 Cook Strait – February 2012 Tsugaru – July 2012