He was surrounded, but he continued swimming while he tried to figure out what was going on. Despite his extensive experience swimming in open water, he’d never had an encounter like this. Although he knew dolphins were friendly, he’d never been this close to them before. As he tried to push the confusion away and focus on his mission, he looked down. It was dark and his goggles were foggy, but he saw it clearly enough. And then he understood everything.
But only a couple of years earlier, Adam Walker had no idea he’d ever experience a thing like that. He was working as a national salesman for a major blue chip company in his home country of England - and he was quite good at it. His competitive nature led him to excel at meeting sales targets and he was fast climbing the corporate ladder. But he still felt like something was missing from his life.
Adam and his family were always involved in sports. Growing up in Nottingham, he and his brother played rugby and cricket just like their father had. Then, when he was a teen, he suffered knee and back injuries that forced him to stop playing. That’s when he took up swimming with great success. He even competed at county level in the 50m backstroke. But at that point, he never thought of making it his career.
His family had always been in sales, so that’s the path that Adam followed after graduating from university. He worked for several big companies and always performed at the top. By the time he was in his mid-twenties, he was well on his way to corporate success. But, after a holiday to Australia with his family, he began to think he was destined for something else. And it all began with an in-flight movie.
Simon Dominguez/Night Train Swimmers
The movie in question was “On A Clear Day,” and revolved about a man who swims the English Channel. Reminiscing of his love of swimming, Adam started considering the idea, and soon decided he would try this feat too. He trained daily, tirelessly practiced long-distance swims and holding his breath - he even meditated to perfect his focus. He set a date and soon he was diving into the Atlantic Ocean. But it all went wrong.
45 minutes into his swim, in 9°C waters, Adam began suffering from severe hypothermia. He was forced to leave the water and seek medical attention. Once he recovered, he used that experience to learn and become a better swimmer. He waited until the Channel’s temperature was more favorable and trained to acclimatize his body properly. Finally, in 2008, he was able to complete the swim. But that was not the end of Adam’s swimming ambitions.
Adam soon set his sights on the Strait of Gibraltar. The Mediterranean waters were warmer and the distance was shorter than what he’d swam before, so he knew this was an achievable challenge. That said, he wanted to push himself, and so he decided to swim both ways. After completing the journey, he became the first British person to swim this crossing in both directions. What feat would Adam tackle next? The answer was not one, but five more.
That same year, the Oceans Seven Challenge was instituted. Similar to the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge, it consisted of seven open water channel swims in different parts of the world: the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Gibraltar Strait. Adam had already swum two of those, so he set out to cross the other five off his list.
Steve and Pam Wise
By 2014, Adam had swum the Molokai Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the Tsugaru Strait - and was getting ready to complete the Cook Strait, which separates North and South New Zealand. It is a 22-kilometer stretch of dangerous and unpredictable waters, but Adam was up for the challenge. He set out on April 21st, knowing he would be swimming for at least 8 hours. But by the third hour, something unbelievable happened.
Adam was wading along when out of nowhere, he saw a fin slice the water not far from him. A dark shadow approached him, followed by a few more. His heart started racing, aware of the dangers in these waters. Then he looked up and saw something incredible: a pod of dolphins. He continued swimming, hardly able to contain the awe that he felt. Then he realized the dolphins had surrounded him and were keeping perfect pace with him. He wondered why.
Escorted by the dolphins, Adam kept swimming, until he put his head underwater and saw something that almost made his heart jump out of his chest: another animal was following him, but this one much less friendly. It was a shark. Although the water was too dark to discern what kind of shark it was, Australian and New Zealand waters are home to many species, including Great Whites. And that’s when he understood the reason for the dolphins’ presence.
Public Domain Pictures
We’ve all heard tales of dolphins protecting humans from dangerous situations in the ocean, including sharks. But Adam lived it himself. The dolphins stayed by his side, never straying or breaking formation until the shark got bored of stalking him and swam away. Even then, they accompanied Adam in his journey for another 90 minutes. Presumably, when they figured he was in safer waters, they left. But the experience would stay with him forever.
Outdoor Swimmer Magazine
8 hours and 36 minutes after he got in the water, Adam made it to land. The next day, he wrote about the experience on Facebook and even shared a video of his encounter with dolphins taken from the escort boat. It had left such a mark on him, that he set out to learn more about dolphins.
After doing some research, Adam learned that dolphins swim faster than a 50m sprinter runs, which is much faster than the speed at which he swims. This further confirmed his theory that they intentionally swam at his pace to protect him. In 2016, he participated in an episode of the documentary series The Nature Of Things, entitled “Conversations with Dolphins.” He recounted his experience in an effort to demonstrate humans’ connection with dolphins. And he didn’t stop there.
Seven years after he first swam the English Channel, Adam completed the Oceans Seven Challenge. Now, he swims for charity, raising funds for the nonprofit groups Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Stop Whaling. He is also a swim coach and motivational speaker, training other endurance swimmers and promoting the causes he cares about - which naturally include dolphins.