Ryan Clark, or ‘Sam Marshall’ from his Home and Away days, or ‘Whippet’ as many of you would know him from the Logie award-winning Aussie TV show ‘Bondi Rescue’, is gearing up to conquer the iconic English Channel this August.
In this feature, Suzie Ryan talks to Clark about his journey to swim the English Channel, the training he’ll be undertaking – including swimming in the Sydney Harbour Splash five-kilometre swim on Australia Day and his 24-hour charity swim.
Whippet’s new challenge
Mr Clark is no stranger to challenging himself and conquering endurance adventure races but his next challenge is like nothing he has done before.
Mr Clark will be conquering the iconic English Channel marathon swim, thirty-three kilometres from England to France, in late August this year.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing long races or adventure races and I’ve done few in my time including Ironman, Coast to Coast in New Zealand and the Molokai Paddle in Hawaii,” said Mr Clark.
“The English Channel has always been something that was in the back of my mind and something I wouldn’t mind giving a go but it wasn’t until a couple of my mates did it in 2020 that I really started thinking about it.
“When my mate Luke Stewart, who is actually doing it with me again this year and Quinn Darragh did it, it sort of made it a much more realistic goal for me and that was when I was like oh I’ll give it a crack.
“From there I just started training and planning how I was going to do it and now we’re here.
“I’ll swim the Channel sometime in late August because my window is between 18th – 28th August so it will be sometime during that time.”
Preparing to swim the English Channel
Mr Clark started training for his upcoming English Channel swim in 2021 with a variety of ocean swims and pool sessions.
“I started training last year because I knew that I had to build up a base,” said Mr Clark.
“Last year I was just punching out kilometres during the week and trying to do a longer swim on the weekend.
“This year I have kept training similar, I have been doing a few sessions a week with my swim squad in the mornings and then I also try and squeeze in a couple of ocean swims.
“I am averaging around 20 kilometres a week at the moment but I am going to keep building up the kilometres as I get closer to the swim.
While Mr Clark continues to build up the kilometres in training he is also planning on participating in a few marathon races before he embarks on crossing the English Channel.
“I plan on doing a couple of long-distance races in between now and when I go over to England to help me prepare for the longer distance,” said Mr Clark.
“I also want to keep increasing the distance of my longer training swims. At the moment I have only gotten up to around twelve kilometres in one go.
“I am going to take on the ‘Swim the Gold Coast’ swim in May, so that’s 23 kilometres.
“Swim the Gold Coast will be a good warm-up swim before the channel even though the water will be a lot warmer on the Gold Coast in May than when I will be swimming the channel.
“But the nutrition side of things will be very similar so it will be a good test run for me.”
Having previously competed in long-distance endurance events, Mr Clark knows that his journey to cross the channel will not only be physically challenging but also a mental challenge.
“I know that crossing the channel will be mentally challenging but I really enjoy that side of it. I love pushing myself to really see how far mentally and physically I can go in events,” said Mr Clark.
“So you could say I am really looking forward to the challenge mentally, but it is also scary at the same time.
“The thought of swimming such a long distance in those conditions is quite daunting, but that challenge and the mental battle are what makes it fun.”
The Sydney Harbour Splash
On Australia Day this year, Mr Clark will participate in the five-kilometre swim at the Sydney Harbour Splash as a training swim.
“I’ve raced the five-kilometre swim at Reidy’s Sydney Harbour Splash event a couple of times and the five-kilometre is a good chunk of swimming to get done in one go, going into the five-kilometre I always find that the second lap is the hardest, mentally you have to stay excited to go around again once you have almost finished,” said Mr Clark.
Having participated in the Sydney Harbour Splash event previously, Mr Clark not only loves banking the km’s but also seeing swimmers of all abilities participate.
“The Sydney Harbour Splash event really is a good day and Reidy puts on an incredible event, it’s a lot of fun and I love seeing swimming of all different abilities and speed come down,” said Mr Clark.
“The best bit is either seeing people do their first ocean swim or pushing themselves to jump up in distance from say the one kilometre to the two and a half kilometre swim.
“And I see a lot of people doing the one-kilometre swim who have never done an ocean swim before because they feel safe in the harbour with no currents or waves and with lots of water safety around.
“Everyone crosses the finish line with a big smile on their face and really enjoying themselves and that would probably be my favourite part of the day.”
24hr Swim for Ocean Heroes
On the 25th of March this year, Mr Clark will set off on a twenty-four-hour swim at Bondi Icebergs to raise money for Ocean Heroes, a charity devoted to offering people on the Autism spectrum a fun, healthy, and unique way to develop their confidence, boost self-esteem and make connections with others through surfing.
“I’ll be doing the 24-hour swim with my mate Luke Stewart who I am swimming the channel with,” said Mr Clark.
“We are going to do 12 hours each and we are aiming to each get 30 kilometres in, in our 12-hour blocks.
“This swim is obviously a bit different to swimming in the ocean but it will be a good test for the body to see how it reacts to swimming for so long.
“Mentally it will also be a challenge, especially getting in and out of the water and having to keep going for 24 hours but it will be a great little test to see where we are before we conquer the channel in August.”
Mr Clark’s 24-hour swim will be held at Bondi Icebergs on Friday 25th March 2022, starting at 3 pm and finishing at 3 pm Saturday 26th March 2022. Following the completion of the swim, there will be a little celebration with drinks and raffles to continue raising money for the Ocean Heroes.
If you are interested in Whippets English Channel journey or want to get involved in the 24-hour swim’ you can follow Whippet on Instagram for regular updates.