A Portadown man braved freezing waters, shoals of jellyfish and strong currents on Friday to swim the coldest channel in the world.
Chris Judge began his charity challenge at Donaghadee, swimming 25 miles to Portpatrick in Scotland, in 13 hours, 32 minutes.
And the Garvaghy Road man’s marathon effort, which he described as “horrendous”, has raised £7,000 for the Stephen Lyness Memorial Fund, with more still coming in.
Stephen, who died suddenly on his 18th birthday from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, was a good friend of Chris’s partner Nicola Fay.
Said Chris, “Stephen’s fund has a place in everyone’s heart here so when I decided to do the swim there was no doubt which charity it was going to go to.”
The father-of-two, who works as a groundsman for ABC Council, spent a year preparing for the challenge and despite injuring his shoulder in April, was determined to complete the swim, albeit at a slower pace than he would have liked.
He said, “I did ice swimming in Lough Neagh from December to February to get acclimatised to the cold and this past four weeks I did a lot of training up on the north coast - just lying in the water for about two hours.”
On the swim, Chris was not allowed to touch the accompanying boat but every three hours was allowed the moral support of a fellow swimmer for a while, in this case his brother Mark.
And on the boat, shouting encouragement from start to finish, was his former swimming teacher at Lurgan Amateur Swimming Club and motivational coach Dorothy Johnston.
Also keeping him going on the gruelling swim was the thought of his sons Regan (8) and Faolan (almost 2), whose names he had written in permanent marker on each arm.
Said Chris. “I just dug into places I didn’t know existed. When I finished, I had been stung on every part of my body, from my face to my armpits. The pain wasn’t so bad when I was swimming but about an hour after I got out of the water it was excruciating.
“I was overwhelmed by the crowd waiting for me on the shore. There must have been 80 people there.”
Chris, who also injured his ‘good’ shoulder during the swim, has thanked Dorothy and the boat crew including Lurgan man Gordon Hamill who spent a year doing ice swims with him.
He also paid tribute to the community of the Garvaghy Road who had really “got behind” him, including small businesses who had donated around £1,600,