A gruelling challenge in Swanage Bay will see four friends attempt a 24-hour endurance swim which could set a European record, while also raising thousands of pounds for two life-saving charities.
Swanage men Dan Chambers, Darren Tomes, Oliver Jones and Paul Green have together become the Squid Squad and are now practising every day for the open sea relay event which starts at 6 pm on Friday 21st July 2023.
The Squid Squad swimmers, setting off on one of their daily training sessions
Sailed past original £2,000 target in a month
Over the following 24 hours, the friends will each swim legs of 1.2 km every two hours across Swanage Bay between the Stone Quay outside Gee Whites and the Banjo Pier, no matter what the weather or sea conditions are like.
They are aiming to raise at least £5,000 for the RNLI and Dorset Mind in recognition of the amazing volunteer work the charities both do to save lives.
Sponsorship offers have been rolling in from national companies as well as local firms and a Just Giving page for both the team and the individual members sailed past its original target of £2,000 inside a month.
The Squid Squad is now hoping to break through its revised target before the swim begins and also hopes to raise more awareness of how important the work done by their chosen charities is.
Dan Chambers on the stone quay in front of Gee Whites where the swim will begin
Sea swimmers started during Covid lockdown
Dan Chambers, who works as the general manager at the Swanage seafront restaurant Gee Whites said:
“We started sea swimming just after Covid began, when people were locked away inside for so long that mental health issues became a lot more apparent.
“Sea swimming is a massive part of helping mental health, so the original idea was just to go into the sea and create a place for people to go to in the mornings and be able to talk about their feelings.
“A lot of people joined us and I now run a Sunday morning 5 km run as well to continue the idea of a hub for people to meet and talk and exercise, all of which helps with the state of your mental health.”
The idea of a sea swim began as a way to raise money for the RNLI and Dorset Mind, both of which are run by volunteers and save lives in their own very different ways.
Volunteers will also be crucial to running the sea swim, with life guards, first aiders and kayakers to be in the water with the swimmers, all giving up their time to make sure the event is both safe and successful.
The four Squid Squad swimmers will take it in turns to swim the 1.2km between their marker points in Swanage Bay, which takes them between 25 and 40 minutes a leg depending on the sea conditions.
Hydrating and warming up again after training swims in the open sea
A unique event to raise money for charity
“The concept was that we would set up something that had never been done before in Europe, we wanted to create a unique event so that we could raise money for charity.
“The event itself will be unbelievably difficult, we will have to be awake for 36 hours and swimming as a team for 24 of those, right through the night.
“We have already raised £3,000 for Dorset Mind and the RNLI and we will be raising more money on the day itself – we will have collecting buckets and a raffle, as well as selling off clothing with the team logo on it.
“We have been training every day regardless of what the sea is like, but we are not swimming in a pool any longer. You need your body to adjust to sea temperature, but also in a pool there are no tides, no waves, no swell – when you go into the sea, it’s very different.”
The Squid Squad, from left, are Darren Tomes, Dan Chambers, Oliver Jones and (sitting) Paul Green
Squid Squad merchandise to raise extra funds
Darren Tomes, himself a volunteer with the Swanage Lifeboat crew, said:
“I got roped into the event because I’m quite a good swimmer – the other boys got into open water swimming during lockdown and became quite good at it, and wanted to set themselves a challenge, so asked me if I wanted to take part.
“I swam for Wareham district swimming club when I was young and my mum and brother organised Swanage Sea Swims for the carnival and I’ve been doing that for years.
“In principle it’s easy enough to swim 1,000 metres, I’ve done 4,000 metres in just over an hour and a half in training, but doing it over an unbroken 24 hours, when you have to get out and wait for an hour and a half before swimming again will be difficult.”
Paul Green, a tank commander at Bovington, and Oliver Jones, a Swanage plumber, are also members of the Squid Squad, which have been provided with professional changing robes by national sponsors Dryrobe, including one to raffle to raise more funds for the appeal.
Other sponsors include sports swimwear firm Huub, restaurant Gee Whites, convenience store Costcutters, restaurant Mollie’s Roof Terrace, reprographics company Purbeck Media Group, Jones and Prior Plumbing and Heating, cafe Love Cake and Cafe Rico.
And the team’s Squid Squad logo has already proved such a talking point in Swanage that a run of clothing featuring the design is being made to sell as official event merchandise and raise even more funds for charity.
Despite the huge challenge that lies ahead, the swimmers already have their eyes on a follow up event which will be even more demanding and just as inspirational.
Sponsored by dryrobe and looking forward to the challenge, Dan Chambers views the swim route
“We set the bar high – now to up the game”
Dan Chambers said:
“We have decided that we will hold an event every year, but each event will have to be something unique, we don’t just want to do the same thing again.
“A four man 24-hour swimming relay in open sea has never been done before anywhere in Europe, the closest we could find to it was an eight man team that swam in a lake, but never in open water.
“We have set the bar high, but we want to be doing something different to up the game every year from now on. We have a few ideas, but we haven’t decided quite what it will be yet – watch this space!”