Perth Teen Swimming the English Channel




On a recent riverside stroll, Peter and I were taken aback to see a slender, shivering young fellow in togs, perched on the boathouse jetty.

Poised to jump into the river Swan, he was clearly hesitant, ignoring his friend lurking on jet ski entreating him to leap in and get on with it.

“Readying for a dip?” I asked the obvious. “But why, pray tell, in this dastardly wintry weather?”

Through chattering teeth, the teenager’s response was somewhat unexpected.


 Channelling the Channel in the Swan

“I’m about to swim The English Channel, so need to get used to the cold.”

Then splash! He was gone, away like a porpoise, supervised closely by his well-clad chum.

A few minutes later, ambling toward the Brewery, we again encountered our new aquatic pal, scrambling out of the water.

If he was a mild blue colour before, by now he was a deeper shade of purple.

“Where’s dad? ” he murmured through lips as frozen as a deep-sea cod.

The young fellow, it transpires, is Hayden Ferguson, 15, a Wesley College student.

A seasoned participant in the 19.7 km  Rottnest Channel Swim (his time is five hours six minutes) he’s now ready for a bigger challenge: the 32 km English Channel swim. “I have done it before, but last time was in a relay. Now I’m ready to do it by myself.”

And next month, he and his dad, Neil are winging to the UK. “I’m about to turn 16, old enough to qualify to do the swim,” Hayden explained.

Starting at Dover, he’ll swim across to Calais. “I’ll leave between August 26th and September 6th, depending on the tides.”



He hopes to complete the feat between eight and 12 hours. 

“I’m excited, and a bit nervous,” Hayden admitted, still shivering, as Neil arrived, handing him clothes and a towel. “It’s what he wants to do,” nodded Neil, with just a hint of pride. 

Assessing his slender frame, I suggested he tucks into a few calorific treats between now and then to help acquire a little insulation.

“I’ve been eating so much – but I can’t put on weight!” he responds.

“I’ve swum 150 kilometres over the last two weeks of training. Mostly I train in pools, that’s why I had to come down to the river and get used to these temperatures.” 

Oh, to be Hayden and not worry about calorific overload.

He’d probably enjoy the delicious recipe for a chocolate dessert we have in the Starfish this issue, from

Lucy Tweed.



We also have a great recipe for chicken curry spring rolls, from Bali-based chef and restaurateur Dean Keddell. It’s from a special cookbook he’s published to help raise funds for those in Bali needing our help. Details in this issue.



Pete reviews the play York, Ros reviews book The Performance, and author Alex Forrest talks about his passion for vintage cars encapsulated in his new book Idle Torque.

Nothing quite so vigorous and energetic as swimming in the Swan River on a winter’s day, but perhaps as pleasurable.


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