Interview with Oly Rush

  • Aug. 3, 2022

Last month you swam round Grand Cayman non-stop for 37 hours to raise money for Plastic Free Cayman. This is a simply unbelievable achievement everyone at the Beach Collective would like to express our total astonishment and admiration. When did you first realise you had a rare talent for long distance swimming?It does sound crazy to say it out loud to be fair, 37 hours non stop! I’ve known for a while I was able to swim for long distances but the real turning point was back in 2019 during training for a planned 16k swim. We (myself and Roy from Clean Jurassic Coast) soon realised that I was able to complete the training swims with relative ease so we knew it was time to set the bar much higher. 

I’m curious to know, when you’re out at sea in the middle of the night, totally exhausted, with many hours of swimming left to go, what goes through your mind?
To be honest I’m not thinking about much, when I’m swimming it’s the one time my mind is truly resting. It’s not always like that though. There were times when I’d bump into something, maybe seaweed or other debris and it would raise the heart rate slightly. And sometimes the fatigue or certain aches or pains from the constant repetition are impossible to drown out. In that instance I’m often thinking about the next food/drink stop! But the fleeting moments of true silence, apart from the sensation of the water gliding past, make it all worthwhile. It’s a feeling of contentment and total ease, one that I will always chase! 
Can you compare the feeling of finishing with anything else you’ve experienced in life?
The feeling of walking out at the finish after The Grand Swim was pure relief!!! Knowing that we had done it, as a team we had completed what we set out to achieve. So many people had donated their time and money and were invested in the swim. I also remember feeling incredibly excited that I would soon be able to get some sleep!
What’s your next challenge?
What’s next? Well, that would be telling! I have 4 big swims I’m looking at and trying to decide which one to go for. I don’t want to make announcements just yet but you can be sure they are going to be huge! In the mean time I’m setting up Project Planet as a charity, renovating my house and trying to earn enough to cover the bills so it’s busy times! Exciting, but busy times! 
What do you think of what we’re trying to do at Beach Collective? 
Beach Collective are exciting and innovative! I think one of the best ways to encourage people to help clean up the ocean is to put a value on the trash which is exactly what you guys are doing. 
What inspires you?
For me it’s largely about the damage and harm we are having on the wonderful and innocent creatures on this planet. It truly breaks my heart to know the impact our ‘convenient’ lifestyles have. The all too common images we see of animals entangled in discarded fishing nets ands the seabirds whose stomachs are filled with plastic. This fuels my desire for change and gives me the mindset needed to take on these huge awareness-raising swimming challenges. 
What do the oceans mean to you?
The ocean is one of the most valuable parts of my life. I have an overactive mind and the only time it’s truly at piece is when I’m swimming. Focusing on the stroke, the timing and sensation of the water, nothing else matters…. then there it is, a plastic bottle floating along… even in the final frontier, humankind’s footprint is difficult to avoid. The ocean is my happy place and I’m determined to do all I can to protect it. Growing up we would spend summer holidays camping by the sea and I can remember waking up to the sound of the waves crashing, I’d be so exited to get out on my bodyboard and spend most of the day in the sea. The sea truly has me under its spell! 
What can people do (especially the younger generation) to support conservation?
I’ve always said that the plastic pollution problem is a great place to start. It’s very straight forward to start making a difference and you can see real progress. Find a local group and head out on some cleanups! There is no hiding from it, it’s there, in front of your eyes. It can be a powerful catalyst for change. Also, just be aware your everyday actions do have an impact - be mindful and be conscious.
I also think eco-anxiety can be a real problem especially amongst the younger generation and to that point I’d say this: remember you can only do so much, be kind to yourself and to the planet. Try not to be overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and remember your actions do have a huge impact!
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