What do you do if you can’t get a slot to swim the English Channel? Rather than sit on a waiting list for a few years, Cumbrian running coach and open water swimmer Wayne Singleton decided to forge his own swimming challenge
I wanted to do the English Channel before I was 50,” says Wayne. “I swam Windermere last year and then started investigating the availability of pilots to take me across the Channel.”
When he was told to ring back in 2025 he got a bit despondent. “I was in a right strop,” he laughs.
It was an off-the-cuff remark from his friend and Windermere support kayaker Ruth that planted the seed of a more personal challenge. “She said ‘why don’t you do something closer to home… like the Cumbrian coastline,’” he recalls. Not having any idea if it was even possible, he started doing some research.
“I started looking into it and realised it’s a lot further than the Channel. Depending on tides and how much of a point-to-point route I can manage around the coast it will be 90 nautical miles or more.”
Wayne has a background in endurance events and water safety. An experienced ultra runner, he is also an open water lifeguard and helps provide free Swim Safe sessions to young people in Cumbria to teach them how to stay safe in open water. His first port of call was to speak to the RNLI and Cumbrian search and rescue teams to see if the swim could be safely completed.
“Everyone I have spoken to has just been full of enthusiasm,” beams Wayne. “The RNLI were really helpful, telling me things to bear in mind but saying it is a great challenge.”
The RNLI were particularly helpful with logistics and shaping the swim. With nowhere to safely harbour a support boat on the route, Wayne had to think of another way to be accompanied in the water.
“I spoke to Sean Conway [who swam the length of Britain in 2013] and he recommended using a kayak,” says Wayne. Thanks to Sean’s advice, Wayne had a plan and a challenge worthy to mark his 50th birthday. Who needs the English Channel when you have the beauty of the Cumbrian coast on your doorstep?
With the swim set for September 2023, Wayne is planning on swimming around 10 miles a day for 10 days, in two shifts per day. He will have two support kayakers per shift.
“It’s exciting,” says Wayne. After his days of swimming he will either sleep in his van or an AirBnB. “The next morning, wake up and drag everything back out and, and get back on with it!”
Wayne won’t be swimming to Channel Rules. If the weather is warm he will swim skins, but will probably wear a wetsuit for most of the challenge. “This is an adventure swim, rather an endurance swim,” says Wayne.
Like many runners, Wayne came to open water swimming through triathlon. “The immersion in nature, it absolutely blew my mind. Being in the lake in a rainstorm, it was just absolutely incredible,” he recalls. Since then his distance has just increased. “I’m not a particularly fast swimmer, but I’m stubborn. So even if it hurts, I’ll get it done.”
In an issue all about community, I ask about the importance of team work in a solo challenge. “The people I’ve met along the way have been incredible,” says Wayne. “The open water swimming community seems to be so inclusive and welcoming, regardless of your level, of what you’re there for. Dippers alongside elite record-breaking swimmers, everyone just gets on together. That’s definitely what it’s about for me, just getting in and giving it a try.”
You can follow Wayne’s swim here: https://live.opentracking.co.uk/SolToSil/
Photos: Ian Wood Photography