World’s First Lady, Seven Oceans Swim – Anna-Carin Nordin, Sweden

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

On the 8th July 2013 at 7.11pm, after 14 hours and 21 minutes swimming from Portpatrick in Scotland to Blackhead Bay, Northern Ireland, Anna-Carin Nordin made history as the first woman to complete the Seven Oceans Open Water swimming challenge.

Meeting up with Anna the day after her achievement, she looked fresh and was happy to talk about her journey from the English Channel in 2010, around the world in swims and back. After such a long day before she was still keen to get back in the water for a “cushy” swim and I had the honour of a relaxing dip with this history-maker on another sunny day at Ballyholme.

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North Channel swim…

Brian Meharg, pilot of Anna’s support boat and Anna took the controversial decision to attempt the swim on a spring tide as the race was on with Anna one of  three ladies hoping to complete the North Channel this year and scoop the Seven Oceans 1st Lady title.

“Tide and time wait for no man or woman.” Said Brian, “The weather is good you should go now.” So at 4.50am Anna was in the water at Portpatrick with her hand against the rock face and the swim began. In the first few hours she encountered the swimmers dreaded jellyfish, Anna said “They were below me and spread out so I played a little ‘tricksie’ and was able to swim around them. I was lucky, I didn’t get stung.” She weaved her hand as she spoke showing how she’d avoided the jellies. “At the start of a swim you don’t want to be stung, at the end you are too tired to avoid them.”

Seal of approval…

The highlight of the swim for Anna was mid channel when a large male seal appeared and continued to swim with her for an hour.  “It’s so nice to see something different in the water with you – not jellyfish!” With the water temperature ranging from 11.3’C to 13.8’C, Anna got colder as the day went on, “But I came here to finish the swim, not to fail.”  So she continued on her way into the history books. The petite blond 41 year old from Sweden had just completed the Seven Oceans Swim Challenge with a smile on her face.  Her blue eyes glinting, she told me “My swimming rivals will have to fight for second place now.”

Finishing at 7.11pm on Monday 8th July 2013, Anna was greeted by ILDSA President Billy Wallace at Bangor Marina and Stephen Redmond, the first man to achieve the Seven Oceans, ‘phoned the first lady with his congratulations. Anna will go home to Jattendal, Sweden to a hero’s welcome.

Well done Anna and thank you for the swim and the chat.

2010: English Channel in 12:00:59

October 2011: Molokai Channel in over 18 hours

1 May 2012: Strait of Gibraltar

3 July 2012: Catalina Channel in 12 hours 40 minutes

September 2012: Tsugaru Channel in 19 hours 11 minutes

8 April 2013: Cook Strait in 8 hours 17 minutes

8 July 2013: North Channel in 14 hours 21 minutes

Anna-Carin comparing tan lines with Maureen and Rachel Smith

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BALLYHOLME BAY Bangor, North Down

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When Paul and I arrived at Ballyholme Beach the sun was shining, there was a light breeze coming off the sea and the tide was beginning to come in.  There is a long stretch of sandy beach, broken at the western end by concrete “groins” running into the sea.  The ends of which are marked with tall posts, so there should be no risk of getting too close and swimming into the wall.

A few people were out enjoying this fine September sunshine, walking dogs and kicking off shoes to go for a paddle.  At the eastern end of the beach, where the strand is left open with no groins to spoil the sweep of sand, a horse and rider were enjoying the soft sands and shallow waters.

By the time I reached the rider she was bringing down her second horse for a swim.  We waded out together, chatting about swimming and the horses.  I think the horses were a little confused that this human was walking into the water with them and not on their backs.  It was my first experience of swimming beside a horse, (at a careful distance, I know how hard hooves can be.)

The sea was calm and clear, and a slightly surreal experience to be chatting to the rider as I breast stroked along, occasionally breaking into front crawl so as not to be left behind.  Although, I think I enjoyed my swim more than the horses.

The sun was warm on my back, the only movement in the water the small waves in the wake of the distant ferry that passed on its way into Belfast Lough, I could have stayed in for hours.

A little way down the beach, a group were wading out, trousers rolled up, they stood in a small circle and began to sing.  A girl stood in the centre of the circle with her head bowed, ready for baptism.  As I enjoyed my gentle swim, accompanied by my equine friends, this girl was having her own deep spiritual experience… I watched as she plunged under the water, washing away her sins as I wash away the stresses of the day each time I swim… rising up to the cheers and songs of her friends.

As I left Ballyholme, I will not forget the mix of the surreal and the sublime that I found that day.

Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge