Clevedon waters have been an inspiration for many swimmers, and today act as a stepping-stone for a growing number of open water enthusiasts.
Many successful long-distance swims have been achieved thanks to Clevedon Marine Lake and its enduring accessibility as a training ground. During 1980s and 90s, although Clevedon Marine Lake fell into disrepair, it was never abandoned, and quietly nurtured long-distance swimmers who have swum the world over. One of a handful of such swimmers is Steve Price, who went on to become the first man to complete the 3-Channels’ challenge, by swimming the English, Bristol and Irish Channels.
Steve Price Long distance solo swims
15 hours 4 minutes
Bristol Channel (Clevedon to Penarth)
8 hours 17 minutes
Bristol Channel double crossing (Clevedon to Penarth and back)
15 hours 43 minutes
Irish Channel Portpatrick to Country Antrim
16 hours 56 minutes
Steve says ‘My toughest challenge was the Irish Channel. It took 17 hours to complete, in cold water just 11oC, and was riddled with jellyfish.’ Steve, who swims without a wetsuit, continues to train in Clevedon Marine Lake.
Steve’s enthusiasm for open water swimming was sparked by day trips to Clevedon Marine Lake from his childhood home in Lawrence Weston. But it was when he moved to Clevedon in 1985 that he developed a passion for long distance swimming, hanging up his rugby boots in his mid-twenties in favour of a pair of googles, motivated by ‘the completion of the challenge’.
A self-taught front crawler, Steve would cycle down from his house in Dial Hill to immerse himself in the briny of the lake. Seeing the display of Clevedon Long Swim trophies dating back 60 years inspired Steve not only to enter the race, but also to research bigger distance events run by The British Long Distance Swimming Association. He went on to swim long distance in New York, Canada, San Francisco Alcatraz and the Nile, after which he was lucky enough to meet his swimming idol, Egyptian open water legend Abu Heif. It is fair to say, Clevedon Marine Lake has opened many doors to Steve.
As a gesture of thanks, in 2016 Steve made a generous donation to Marlens, the voluntary group and charity behind the renovation and management of Clevedon’s historic Marine Lake, to help with the upkeep of the lake. He says, ‘The lake has given so much to me, and opened up a world I’d never imagined. When I saw it for the first time after the renovation, I felt very emotional. I want to help keep it this way. I want people to know what a special place Clevedon is for open water swimming. It’s the third most tidal estuary in the world. It can be dangerous so must be respected, but this unpredictability adds to the challenge. It’s never the same. Likewise, the lake, sometimes a haven, but it too can get wild. With this strong grounding, I hope to find an opportunity to swim between the North and South islands of New Zealand. The Cook Strait is 14 miles wide at its narrowest point and considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world.’
Steve believes he must have swum 1,000 miles in Clevedon Marine Lake over the years, so knows every inch of the seawall, intimately. His longest training swim in the lake was 14 hours, during which, in a trance like state, he began to see roast chickens on the wall instead of seagulls!
Not only does Steve continue to swim long distances, but he also gives talks, both inspiring and entertaining, across the South West on his experiences born out of Clevedon Marine Lake.
Kate Gay September 2016