Indian swimmer Rohan More created history after becoming the youngest individual in the world to complete the Ocean Seven challenge. Incidentally, he is also the first Asian and the first Indian to swim across the Ocean Seven. Not many are aware but Ocean Seven is a swimming marathon consisting of seven channel swims and is considered to be on par with the Seven Summits (mountaineering challenge). The arduous task challenges a swimmer to swim across world’s most difficult seas which includes the likes of English Channel – 33.8 km (21 miles) between England and France, Catalina Channel – 32.3 km (20 miles) between Catalina Island and the California mainland, Strait of Gibraltar – 14.4 km (9 miles) between Spain and Morocco, North Channel – 34.5 km (21.4 miles) between Ireland and Scotland Kaiwi Channel – 42 km (26 miles) between Molokai and Oahu, Cook Strait – 22.5 km (14 miles) between the North and South Island of New Zealand, Tsugaru Strait – 19.5 km (12.1 miles) between Honshu and Hokkaido, Japan.
On Friday, 31-year-old More completed the last leg of the task by swimming across the Cook Strait in 8 hours and 37 minutes and raising the Tricolour. He is now only the ninth individual in the world to complete this herculean exercise. But there was a point in his life when swimming across channels, or swimming at all, was something he thought he left behind. Speaking exclusively to the IndianExpress.com from New Zealand, More, who works as a techie in Pune, revealed his extraordinary journey which began with a taste of success at a tender age of 11.
Afraid to swim
Rohan More first started swimming in early 90’s when he was just 4 years old. His tryst with swimming had quite an interesting start. As a child, he had weak lungs and his mother was advised by the family doctor to put him in some sport so that he could increase his strength. Back then a young More was even afraid to go near water and had to be forced to do so. But slowly fear passed by to give way to an undying passion for swimming.
More’s first big open water swim took place in 1996 when he was 10 years old and swam from Dharamtar to Gateway of India in Mumbai, covering a distance of 37 km in 7 hrs 28min. He was the youngest swimmer then to stroke his way across that channel. However, with age, life took a different turn and when he reached Class 10, More had to quit swimming. “Ashok Deshpande, Kalpana Agashe, and Ramesh Vipat coached me during my school days but after Class 10 I left swimming, and my entire focus was on studies. Later on getting a job, I left swimming behind. It did not remain a part of life anymore till the time I went to Abu Dhabi for my work assignment in 2013.”
But best things always happen unexpectedly and life gave the Triple Crown winner of Open Water Swimming another shot at fulfilling his dream. “As I was away from family I had nothing to do after work hours so I started to go for casual swimming. This was the turning point as it rekindled my childhood dream of swimming the English Channel and journey of my open water swimming restarted in 2014.” In July 2014, More successfully crossed the English Channel. But success is not the final frontier. It is the courage to continue that counts.
“But I was not satisfied and wanted to strive harder. I really started to like open water swimming and the challenges that lie in it. So I started to look after the other open water swims across the world, and came to know about Ocean Seven challenge and decided to take it up and set up the goal in my mind.” But it took almost 4 years for the Pune-lad to reach glory and required a lot of dedication, hard work and laser-like focus. “Along with this I had to look after my family as well and the main thing in this you need to manage the financial expense as well,” said More.
In 2015, the More’s father has suffered a brain stroke and half his body was paralysed. Being a single child he quit his job in Abu Dhabi and came back to India. “After coming here, it became very difficult for me to manage the swimming expenses along with the household. So it took quite a while to complete this challenge due to financial problems.”
Not only monetary concerns but a host of other challenges lay in front of the Tenzing Norgay Award winner. Speaking about those, a pensive More said,”One can never imagine about those. You will get strong sea currents, high waves, cold water, jellyfishes, sharks, rough sea, dark night in the sea, it’s endless. After a long swim, your body gets very tired, you feel a lot of pain mainly in shoulders and lower back, sometimes I vomited due to salt water. It was really tough one. I fought against all the odds and focussed on the swim.”
Did the thought of giving up ever cross his mind? “While swimming the English Channel, I really thought of giving up after eight hours of swimming. My body was so tired and I was continuously vomiting for five hours, I had nothing left in my body. But at that moment the official observer of the CSPF (Channel swimming & Pilot Federation) started waving the Indian flag to encourage me. I don’t know what happened but I gave up the idea of giving up and started swimming strongly and finished it. I think the Tricolour motivated me to carry on.”
Weather plays a very vital role in such challenges and it is not that one can control. “Even for this last, I was waiting for 15days to get a good weather window to swim across Cook Strait,” said More. However, these are not the only challenges he faced. Recalling some of the other challenges More singled out the Molokai Channel in Hawaii Island. “The sea was very rough. I had 26 Knots wind on that day throughout my entire swim time. Waves were so strong that they smashed me, sometimes I was thrown on to the Kayak which was navigating me.”
Another such ask was in the North Channel. “I had very calm and nice day to swim this channel but the main problem with that channel was filled with nasty Jellyfish and was brutally cold. It was world’s coldest swim and being an Indian and brought up in warm weather I had never experience such cold climate. I was literally frozen during that swim and my lower body was becoming hypothermic. At that moment I was a little bit concerned.
But the pinnacle of success is yet to come for More as he now sets his sight firmly on the 2020 Olympics. In 2016, More had gone on to represent India in world open water swimming Olympic qualifiers at Portugal but unfortunately failed to qualify. “But I learned a lot from that tournament so that I will definitely try to achieve my dream of Olympic medal for 2020 Olympics,” More singed off by saying.
In 2017, Rohan More was awarded the prestigious Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award 2016-2017 (in the Water Adventure Category) by the Honourable President of India Ram Nath Kovind.
In 2017, Rohan More was named as the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Men in 2017 by the World Open Water Swimming Association.
In 2014, Rohan More was chosen as the MSF Global Marathon Swimming Award finalist (Barra Award for Most Impressive Overall Year category.)
Rohan More has completed six Oceans Seven channels during the summers of 2014, 2015 and 2016.