Purbeck waste warrior Oly Rush is ready to push his body to the limit in a 60 hour, world record setting swim – to bring international attention to the state of our seas.
Oly, who spends much of his spare time clearing tons of plastic waste which is relentlessly washed ashore at Chapman’s Pool, near Worth Matravers, has spent the last four summers taking on extreme swim challenges to raise funds and focus the spotlight on his war on plastic waste.
A 37 hour swim around Grand Cayman in 2022 left Oly in hospital with severe sunburn and dehydration
“Brutal” swim landed Oly in hospital
In August 2020, Oly spent eight days swimming the length of the Jurassic Coast between Exmouth and Studland before becoming the fastest person to swim around the Isle of Wight the following year.
In 2022 he became the first person to ever swim non-stop around the island of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. and then in 2023, taking inspiration from Homer’s classic Greek poem The Odyssey, he swam 40 miles around the island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea.
Although the “brutal” 60 mile swim around Grand Cayman took almost 37 hours and landed him in hospital with severe sunburn and dehydration, the man who is nicknamed Purbeck’s human fish is ready to push himself even further.
He now intends to attempt the world record for the longest non-tidal assisted sea swim, which currently stands at 78 miles and 52 hours between Italy and Malta, although Oly is considering Greece as the location for his record attempt.
Oly, who is in the final stages of searching for sponsors to back his world record attempt, likely in September 2024, is aware that it will cause him “a world of pain” but says it is well worth it to publicise such an important issue.
A scene from The Grand Swim which chronicles Oly’s quest to swim around Grand Cayman
“I want to swim longer than anyone has before”
A feature film of his swim around Grand Cayman, titled The Grand Swim, has its premiere at Durlston on Saturday 10th February 2024, and Oly Rush said:
“It was a life changer for me and shows what charity can achieve if you are doing things with a real sense of purpose. For some people it is enough to get a world record, but for these massive challenges I truly believe that you must have a purpose inside you.
“I love the ocean and I look around and see the mess and destruction that we are causing – and I take those feelings, channel them into energy and put it into these swims.
“Now I want the record for the longest swim, I want to swim longer than anyone has ever swum before and get national and international publicity to make people aware of the damage that single use plastic is causing to our oceans.
“It will probably be in Greece because they have a good temperature out there and there are no big sharks! I’m talking to a few potential sponsors in the next couple of weeks because if it is going to happen, it needs to happen quite soon.”
Oly’s record swim around Grand Cayman led to such support on the island that the government invited him to talks
“I’m in a world of pain when I swim long distances”
Oly Rush added:
“It will probably mean a 60 hour swim for me to make sure I get the record. It will be brutal, but when I look around at the madness, it fuels me to keep going. I’m in a world of pain when I swim long distances – I was hallucinating in Cayman and felt incredibly poorly at times.
“However, I feel that if I dig in for a few days and just suffer for a while it can result in a massive beneficial impact for the planet, whereas I will recover quite quickly.”
Tickets for the film’s premiere at Durlston Castle have already sold out, but it is hoped that a second showing will be organised as there was such interest in the event.
A year and a half in the making, filmed across Dorset and the Cayman Islands, The Grand Swim presents the difficulties, dangers and dedication involved in attempting what no one else had ever attempted before.
Oly Rush and Percy the Plesiosaur taking a swim out in Swanage Bay
Inspiring the next generation
Oly, who lives in Upton in Poole, was partnered by charities Plastic Free Cayman and Project Planet in his challenge, and has so far raised thousands of pounds online to raise awareness about plastic pollution.
He has started working full time for charity and gives talks to school assemblies to inspire and educate the next generation on plastic pollution – which he has also achieved with his plastic plesiosaur, Percy.
Percy was created out of 600 plastic bottles and towed across Swanage Bay during Swanage Carnival in July 2023, to get people interested in tackling plastic pollution in their lives.
Oly spends hours at Chapmans Pool clearing it of tons of single use plastics which wash ashore
“This film has massive potential”
Oly Rush said:
“There are so many problems in the world, but tackling plastic pollution is something we can all realistically do. We can all pick up a bit of plastic rubbish, or use alternative packaging in our lives and make a better connection with nature.
“The whole point of doing the swim around Grand Cayman and filming it, was to reach as many people as possible and try to change some behaviours.
“I felt for a while that I was in an echo chamber and only watched by the people who followed my Instagram and those who already did the kind of things that I did, but this film has massive potential to reach a new audience.
“It would be great if the film got onto a big platform and reached huge numbers, it might be able to achieve what I set out to do four years ago.
“We just want it to do really well and inspire a lot more people to get involved with a solution to single use plastics. There are so many little things that anyone can do in their lives to help make the world a healthier place.”
- Follow Oly’s adventures on his Instagram page
- Read some ideas for reducing single use plastics from the EarthDay website