60-Year Old Grandfather Reflects On Being The Oldest Swimmer To Complete ‘Oceans Seven’ Challenge

Antonio Argüelles made headlines in 2017 when he swam 21 miles through the North Ireland Channel all the way to Scotland.

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The specific route that Argüelles swam is known for being extremely dangerous, as it’s highly populated with lion’s-mane jellyfish, the largest jellyfish species known to man, and is historically susceptible to massive storms. He began his journey in August of 2017 after being delayed for weeks due to stormy weather patterns that made the channel impossible to swim in. His completion of this swim made him the oldest swimmer, at the time, to complete the Oceans Seven; a series of challenging swim routes across the globe. 

Now, Argüelles has written a book about the milestone he titled, The Final Swim, which discusses the specific journey in the North Ireland Channel as well as a lifetime of societal challenges that constantly told him he wasn’t good enough. With the current Covid-19 pandemic, he’s been able to dedicate a lot of time to perfecting the book, however, the 60-year-old recently spoke with the media about how he’s spending a lot more time on land than he’d like.

Specifically, Argüelles was planning a back-and-forth swim of the English channel this August, but with the current state of the world in terms of the pandemic, it’s unclear as to whether he’ll be able to or not.  He claims that while the English Channel event wasn’t going to be his last swim, it was going to be the “last long swim” of his career, so he’s hoping that he’ll still be able to when the time comes. 

When reflecting on the final challenge in the Oceans Seven series, Argüelles claims that writing about that was easy because of how challenging it was, and how vividly he remembers the difficulty of the route.

“There was a lot of self-doubt in that swim, I did not know if I was going to finish. You can never get that coldness out of your body, especially your arms, legs, hands and feet.”

Argüelles is referring to the fact that the average temperature in that specific channel ranges from 55 – 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and while that may have been the most difficult aspect of the journey to endure, he did, in fact, finish the swim. To prepare for the cold temperatures, Argüelles trained in the San Francisco Bay, which has a very similar temperature climate to the channel, as well as spent two weeks in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland to get his body acclimated to the environment. 

While in Northern Ireland, he got to know a local swim club known as the Chunky Dunkers; a polar bear plunge-type group who swims in Ireland’s natural bodies of water every day of the year, regardless of the weather. However, once he was in Ireland he quickly realized that the climate conditions outside of the water would hinder him more. 

Eventually, on August 3rd to be more specific, the stormy weather patterns broke, and Argüelles was able to begin his journey across the channel. He partially credits the weather clearing up to his pleas to Mother Nature to “give him a chance,” claiming he knew he needed to get the waters permission to embark on such a long swim. 

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“You don’t conquer the mountains, they give you permission to do it. My philosophy has always been to treat Mother Nature [with] a lot of respect. I am not a religious person, but I believe in forces of nature.”

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At first, Mother Nature remained on Argüelles’ side. Initially he planned to reach the halfway point of his journey within six hours, however, he was able to do it in five. During the duration of the swim he had an escort boat following behind him to ensure that in the case he got too exhausted or conditions in the water worsened, he would be able to get back to land easily and safely. His trainer, Nora Toledano, and advisor, Rafael Alvarez, were in the boat the whole time as well. 

After the first half of the swim, however, weather conditions worsened and colliding currents began to push Argüelles back towards the starting line. He recalled his trainer and adviser shouting at him from the boat that he would “have to sprint for the next hour” if he wanted a shot at reaching the milestone of completion. His strokes then increased from 64 per minute to 67. 

Argüelles credits his ability to push through these conditions on his physical and mindfulness training. “One of the things I do in my training is a Qi Gong sequence. I have to try to do the sequence, move my legs, move my arms, lower back. The whole idea is to liberate your energy channels, create more energy.”

He was indeed able to push through, but not without some last minute obstacles as well. He discusses in his book that lion’s-mane jellyfish weren’t an issue for him until the very end of the journey where he was slightly stung, however, the lion’s-mane jellyfish sting is known for being excruciating, no matter how light it is. 

However, despite it all Argüelles completed the journey and memorialized himself as one of the oldest individuals to complete the Oceans Seven. Since this accomplishment Argüelles has completed an even longer swim that took over 24 hours in Catalina. He also recently became a grandfather, something he says he’s always wanted, as now he has someone to tell his crazy adventures too. As for the future of his swimming career, Argüelles is planning on stopping the long risky journeys, but will always have time for the water and “a good swim.”

Eric Mastrota

Contributing Editor

Eric Mastrota graduated with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. His goal is to create content that readers find entertaining, informative and most importantly, beneficial.