GEAR,  Product Reviews

Man vs Ocean, by Adam Walker

If you are a regular reader of H2Open Magazine you will probably be aware of Adam Walker. The first British swimmer to complete the Oceans Seven, Adam is now a swim coach and motivational speaker. What is perhaps less well known is the story behind how a toaster salesman from the Midlands came to take on and conquer the swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge. 

Man vs Ocean is as much a book about the power of positive thinking as it is about the actual swims (exciting reading though they are). Heading towards his thirties with no particular goal in life, Adam was on a flight when watching the movie On a Clear Day gave him the inspiration to swim the English Channel. He had always been a swimmer but had given up the sport to play cricket. Injured knees meant a return to the water, but now he had a goal to aim for and something to train for.

Unfortunately his training didn’t start so well, but swimming for too long in water so cold he nearly died from hypothermia showed the determination that Adam would need to swim the Oceans Seven. 

But even if you aren’t planning epic marathon swims, Adam’s book provides invaluable insights into the mental processes it takes to succeed in such endeavours. His positive mental attitude (“you can’t think negative while you’re thinking positive”) helped him to swim seven of the world’s toughest crossings. But they are mental tricks that everyone can apply to their lives, not just to swimming. Just imagine what they could do to your life!

Adam “made the decision not to use the word ‘cold’ any more” after a less-than-successful training camp in Gozo left him demoralised before his English Channel crossing. We have tried Adam’s trick of believing that cold is all in the mind – it does work, if you can get yourself into that mental space where your mind is receptive to believing what you tell it. Our test of 300 metres in 2 degree water was still not warm though!

His journey to the Oceans Seven wasn’t without setbacks. Surgeons warned him that injury meant he shouldn’t attempt the Gibraltar Strait as his shoulder was only strong enough for ‘leisure’ swimming. Undeterred, Adam reinvented his freestyle stroke, learning to power from his core and relaxing his front arm to take the stress off his shoulder. 

The mental toll of undertaking the crossings while still working (which was necessary to fund the swims) is an interesting aspect of the book.  ‘Everyday life’ is suddenly not sustainable when in your spare time you have such an adrenaline-fuelled, adventurous existence. At some point the inevitable decision has to be made: how can you live a life that allows you to do what you love without being stuck in an office? Three months before his final Oceans Seven swim Adam jacked in his job to run swim training camps. 

The book ends on a call to follow your beliefs and never give up on your dreams. An inspirational read. 


John Blake Publishing

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.