Red Bull X-Alps

David Liano’s epic swim

For most athletes, fall is a time when they start heading to warmer climes. Not so for serial adventurer David Liano Gonzalez, who last month was in Britain to attempt a swim across the Channel to France.

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His early exit from the Red Bull X-Alps with the inflammation of an existing injury was a mixed blessing for David Liano Gonzalez. After dropping out, the Mexican athlete made a beeline for the Mediterranean coast.

“I’d been planning the Channel swim since May last year and was swimming every day in Fuschl,” he tell us. “I couldn’t run on the last couple of days of the race, even walking was hard so right afterwards I travelled to Menton and started swimming twice a day.”

The Channel swim is a 32km open water swim between England and France across one of the world’s busiest shipping channels but with strong tides affecting both coastlines, swimmers can expect to swim a lot further than that. While the record is 7 hours, it can take over 24 hours. And that’s a long time to spend in water that’s just 15ºC to 18ºC – without a wetsuit.

“Wearing a wetsuit is considered as assistance,” says David. “To be certified, you’re not allowed a wetsuit. Swimmers typically cover themselves in grease but I just used some vaseline to avoid chafing.”

Attempts are a strictly regulated endeavor – aspiring channel swimmers can’t just jump into the sea and start swimming to France. They have to be escorted by an official Pilot boat on a pre-booked slot.

“I travelled to Dover at the beginning of September,” says David. “I was scheduled to go during the weaker tides but because of bad weather I was pushed back to when there were stronger tides. The boat Captain decided they were too strong for my swimming speed – and I was forced to abandon. He’s been doing this for 13 years, so when he told me the conditions were not favorable. I was ok with that.”

Despite being forced to give up just three hours into the feat, David has already booked his slot to return in 2019.

“I know I can do it,” he says. “It was a positive experience,” he adds. “Before I hated swimming and now I really love it.”

Next year David has some big plans to climb several 8,000ers –  he’ll announce details on that another time – but is keen to return to the Channel the year after. He adds that big mountains, epic swims – and paragliding – do have one thing in common.

“If you’re relying on weather, it’s about patience!”