Dangerous currents and freezing cold, shark-infested waters might be enough to have most of us scrambling for dry land, but not two friends from Naas, Co. Kildare, who set off for America’s West Coast next week, to compete in a dare-devil sea swim for charity.
The swim from the notorious prison island of Alcatraz to San Francisco was immortalised by Clint Eastwood’s classic ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ nearly 40 years ago. For generations it was regarded by prison inmates as “the impossible swim” because of the numbers who perished in their attempts to escape ‘The Rock.’
But in recent times it has been the scene for an extreme sports challenge that has attracted competitors from around the globe. Naas men, Stephen Tighe and Paul Quigley will join their ranks when they take the plunge, and attempt the impossible, at ‘Sharkfest Swim 2017’ in San Francisco Bay on June 4th next.
Stephen, an electrical engineer and his pal Paul, who co-owns a hair salon, are covering all of the costs of the trip out of their own pockets. But they have also been raising thousands for charity, with international agricultural organisation Gorta-Self Help Africa, and a children’s education programme in Cambodia set to benefit from their expedition.
A broadcast interview with a previous competitor in Sharkfest provided Stephen with the inspiration to take the challenge, and although he admits that ‘it took some convincing’ to get Paul onboard, once they signed up for the event there was no looking back.
The two men are no strangers to extreme challenges either, having cycled the length of Ireland together in a single day, last year.
“We knew that we would need to do a lot of training to get to the standard that was required, and have been training every week in Dublin Bay to prepare ourselves,” Stephen says. “Since we started training we’ve probably each completed around 250km, so we should be ready,” he adds.
The swim from Alcatraz is far from straightforward, as strong currents and the presence of Great White sharks in the water can make it a challenging and nervous crossing.
“We’re prepared for the cold and hopefully won’t have to worry about the sharks. There will be plenty of us in the water, so as long as we’re not the slowest!” Stephen jokes.
You can lend your support to Paul and Stephen’s challenge by contacting Gorta-Self Help Africa on (01) 6778880, or by visiting their website.