Why do dolphins surround swimmers? The incredible story of Adam Walker

20/08/2018 - 10:51 447 Views

Expert swimmers often challenge themselves and even take on the cold waters of the oceans. Apart from the risks of low temperatures, one of the most dangerous things they have to take into consideration is the presence of wild marine animals who roam the waters. One tries not to think about it but some of these creatures can harm human lives. Below is the incredible story of a swimmer who had a totally unexpected adventure in Cook Strait, New Zealand. A group of dolphins came and surrounded him, while he was taking a swim. He could not understand why until he looked down and find out something horrible. If you are curious to find out more about the story of swimmer Adam Walker, keep reading this article.

  1. A true sportsman, since he was a child

Since he was a child, Adam Walker had loved to practice all kinds of sports. He grew up in Nottingham, UK, where, as a teenager, he proved to be extremely talented in rugby and cricket: back then Adam enjoyed playing with his older brother and their father Peter was always there to support his sons, every time they were playing a match. One day, while he was playing, Adam got a bad back and knee injury and, as a result, he had to give up on both rugby and cricket. For him it was impossible to quit completely all kind of physical activity, so he tried swimming which turned out to be the perfect sport for him. He was so good at it that he also started to take part to competitions. What Adam did not know yet was that swimming would lead him to live the most exciting and dangerous experiences of his life.

  1. The call of duty

After he graduated, Adam Walker started thinking about his career and ended up following the family path. He obtained a job as a salesman and proved to be very successful at it: smart and dedicated, the young man landed a respectable title as a national salesman. Targets were always met by Adam, whose competitive nature had already been proved when he was doing sports at high levels. As much as successful and happy, Adam Walker had the secret feeling that something was missing in his life, even though it took him a while to realize what this was exactly.

  1. I got it

The idea came up out of the blue, during a family holiday. In 2006 Adam Walker was flying to Australia and to kill the time during the long journey he decided to watch an in-flight movie called “On a clear day you can see forever”. The film revolves around a man who lost his job and decided to swim the English Channel. This life-changing story was such an inspiration for Adam, that he felt the urgency to do exactly the same thing. To swim the English Channel he set himself a date and a detailed training schedule, in order to arrive 100% prepared to the big day.

  1. Beyond his own limits

If you live the same daily routine for a few years, setting up an ambitious goal is far from easy. Swimming the English Channel is one of the most difficult challenges one can imagine and requires long sessions of both physical and mental training. Pushing yourself beyond your own limits in this kind of adventure includes acclimating the body to very low temperatures, dealing with strong water currents and waves and, last but not least, being fully aware that, while swimming, you might be surrounded by dangerous marine creatures, such as sharks.

  1. Oceans Seven

Dedication and mental strength made Adam Walker accomplish his mission. On July 14th 2008 he managed to swim the English Channel. It was not a piece of cake, as he felt sick several times from the swells and currents. The water – he said afterwards- “was chopping like a washing machine”. The minute he touched ground, Adam was already thinking about the next challenge: swimming the Strait of Gibraltar. The distance was actually shorter and even the water was much warmer. The mission was accomplished on the 5th of July 2011: Adam Walker was the first British person to swim not one but both ways in the Strait. While he was busy in preparing this challenge, a new sport marathon had been created. They called it “Oceans Seven” and in the list there were also the English Channel and Strait of Gibraltar. Adam was instantly tempted to complete the 7 parts of the challenge: two had already been done, anyway. However, the Cook Strait turned out to be more dangerous that he thought.

  1. Next Mission: Oceans Seven

After the English Channel and the Gibraltar Strait, Adam Walker faced more challenges: Molokai Strait, Catalina Channel, Tsugaru Strait and the North Channel. Only 10 swimmers in the world, included Walker, have completed this challenge so far and he is the only British one in history. The 7 swims were completed in 6 years: each challenge was and adventure. Walker has got a lot of things to tell about each of them, but his encounter with the dolphins is still the most incredible thing that happened to him. Keep reading to find out what a weird experience this was to him.

  1. A ruptured tendon

One of the most difficult moments for Adam Walker happened during his swim through the English Channel. While he was in the water he ruptured a biceps tendon. Even if he was very sick, he decided to keep going and finished his first long swim. He did not know yet how serious the damage was: he went under three operations to re-attach the fibres to the tendon and the doctors advised him not to swim again. However, the bad injury did not stop Walker from his intentions. In order to keep going, he invented his own swimming technique.

  1. Portugues man o’war

Another critical moment occurred when Walker was swimming the Molokai Strait, a mission that took him 17 hours and 2 minutes to be completed. While swimming he bumped into a Portuguese man o’ war,  a terrible marine creature who can be as venomous as a cobra snake. Walker got stung by it and he could not feel the spine for 5 minutes. However, he decided to keep going and not to give up the challenge. Describing such a terrible experience he later said: “I had to pull tentacles off my stomach, I lost feeling in my spine and I thought I’d been paralysed. I basically had to go through three and a half hours of agony to complete the swim”. As much as this is a frightening experience, what happened in the following swim was even worse…


  1. Swimming in a Dark Ocean

The following step was the Cataling Channel, off the coast of California. The swim started at midnight and this means that Adam Walker had to swim for over 6 hours in complete darkness. We can only imagine how scary can be plunging into black waters and keep swimming without seeing a thing. Also, the feelings of freezing and sickness he had during the 12 hours swim, made this experience the less enjoyable ever.


  1. Sharks and Such Things

Just when you think you have seen it all, something more challenging is around the corner. During his swim throughout Tsugaru Channel in Japan, Adam Walker felt ill for the first two hours and then met a frightening shark, who was swimming just underneath him. As the current was coming in, he had to proceed at a high pace and charge through 12-foot-high wavers, while sprint swimming for 11 hours.  While he got slapped by waves, he had to face also a tiny jelly fish who stung his face.  “I have never breathed so hard in my life- Walker said afterwards- My chest was tight and my shoulders were really sore from the hours of swimming and being bashed around”. A terrible experience, if you consider that it took Adam Walter 15 hours and 31 minutes to complete the swim.

  1. The Chilly North

The North Channel between Ireland and Scotland is considered one of the most difficult swims in the world, due to its freezing water. Adam Walker decided to face this challenge too: during the swim, in addition to the low temperatures of the water, he had to deal with a barricade of Lion’s mane jelly fish. This marine creature turned out to be quite big and to have very aggressive stings. The swim was completed in 10 hours and 45 minutes. After all these missions accomplished, Adam Walker could not imagine that the weirdest experience was yet to come: the Cook Strait was a true surprise to him.

  1. The Cook Strait

It is considered one of the most dangerous swims in the world, but this did not stop Adam Walker from giving it a try. The Cook Strait is located between the North and South Islands of New Zealand and connects the Tasman Sea to the South Pacific Ocean. The challenge took place on April 22 2014. That day Walker was very nervous and decided to calm himself down by listening to motivational speeches on his mp3 player. Even his coach Philip Rush was a bit nervous but he shared with Walker the great determination and ambition to accomplish this difficult task. Walker felt sick a few minutes before starting, but he still decided to plunge into the water and swim. He could not even imagine what was about to happen.

  1. Getting into the Groove

For the first time Adam Walker wore a GPS tracker while swimming so that people could follow his progress in real time. With more pressure involved, Walker was not feeling very well during the first hour and when he approached his coach to get a snack, Phil told him to be more confident and get over the worries. The second hour went much better, as Walker gained a good rhythm. However, his legs were still weak and not as powerful as usual. He had a second drink and decided that this time he needed to snap out of it: after all those missions accomplished, he had nothing to lose. He had already proved to be brave and strong. But it was in the third hour of swimming that something totally unexpected happened.

  1. A fin appears

Adam Walker had now gained a good rhythm of swimming, so that he did not need to stop every hour. Also, he was feeling much better now: the stomach ache had suddenly disappeared. Right when he was finally confident and smooth in his swimming, he saw a fin emerging from the water next to him. The fin went up and down in a split second: some kind of marine creature was swimming around him, that was pretty clear.

  1. A bank of dolphins

After a few seconds, Adam Walker realized that, what was swimming around him, was actually not one dolphin, but a whole bank of dolphins. It was a feeling of pure joy: swimming in open waters along with those friendly creatures. He still had to discover the true reason why the dolphins were swimming there. Even thought that was an enjoyable experience, Walker had to get back to his challenge and keep swimming. That was the precise moment when he realized that something very big was right underneath him.

  1. Keep going and do not look down

It did not take Walker long time to realize that the big marine creature lurking underneath him was a shark. He was aware of the presence of sharks and dangerous creatures in those waters, but seeing a shark swimming right next to him made him scared. He was not comfortable swimming anymore and lost concentration. All he could do was trying to keep calm and proceeding in a slow and stable way. Maybe – he thought – the presence of dolphins all around would somehow protect him.

  1. First reactions

Adam Walker decided not to tell Phil anything about the shark. He knew that his coach would make him jump onto the boat and waste time. Also, if he had taken a break from swimming and get some rest on the boat, the task would be considered failed. Walker was far from considering stopping and wasting months and months of  long training sessions. As much as the company of the dolphins was enjoyable, he could not stop thinking about the shark that was swimming in the same waters as he was.

  1. Meeting the shark

Having met with sharks before, Adam Walker was aware that the best strategy is to ignore them and keep swimming as if they were not there. He tried to stay focused on his ultimate goal, but it was not easy, as his eyes were obviously attracted by the shark who was swimming beneath him. Even though it did not seem to be about to attack him, the shark was still a threaten and could be a real danger for Walker’s life. It was a mix of feelings: the joy of swimming along with dolphins and the fear of being attacked by sharks.

  1. What lies beneath

Eventually, the shark disappeared. It was hard to understand why, maybe because of the dolphins. It had happened before that dolphins surrounded humans when they spot a shark approaching. The disappearance of the shark did not make Walker calmer, as he was still wondering what else could be lurking in those waters. His coach noticed that he was not fully focused and thought that this was because of the dolphins, as he was not aware of the big shark. Walter had never been so distracted before. However that mix of emotions made that swim very exciting and different from all other swims he had tried before.

  1. The coast is clear

After the shark disappeared, the dolphins kept staying next to Walker and this made him more confident and gave him the boost to pursue his task. He was actually happy to be there, facing one of the biggest challenges of his life, surrounded by such nice marine creatures. He was always looking down to check if the shark was still following him, but there was not sight of him at all. The dolphins had been acting like his bodyguards and protecting him from that dangerous creature. He did not know if the shark left because of the dolphins but he did like to think like that and hoped that the shark would not show up again.

  1. What dreams are made of

The dolphins did not abandon Walker and swam by his side for another half-an-hour. He was now totally focused on his task and was thankful to the dolphins, as they gave him the boost to keep going, even during a moment of great danger and distress. Walker and the dolphins proceeded together for a while and the long strokes they left in the water were basically matching. Walker even felt the tails of the dolphins brush up against him. Maybe they were just playing and having fun, but their presence definitely helped Walker to feel more focused and safe.

  1. Farewell my friends

Without the dolphins, Adam Walker’s swim would have been much harder. With them swimming next to him he found the strength and confidence to keep going, even at difficult times. He was feeling unstoppable now, swimming smoothly and efficiently. After one hour and half the dolphins swam away and Walker kept going alone. Was he still safe now? What if the shark shows up again?

  1. Where there is a will, there is a way

Adam Walker stopped again to have a drink. He also tried the home-made soup, cooked by his girlfriend Gemma Clarke. That break made him feel better and gave him new energy to continue what he was doing. However, after another 90 minutes he started to feel sick again. Five hours had passed by since the start of this adventure and his coach Phil did not stop encouraging Walker to keep going further and faster. Walker was still swimming and, even when he got very close to large rocks, he did not stop. Any other challenges in the horizon? That was the thought of Walker after over five hours of swim.

  1. What about the Shark?

The presence of Phil made Adam Walker very comfortable and calm. He is an ocean swimmer too, hailing from New Zealand. Among his successes, it is worth mentioning the world record he still holds for completing a two and three way swim of the English channel in the quickest time. He met sharks several times when he was a swimmer. As he crossed the Cook Strait 8 times, he told Walker not to worry about sharks at all. Walker mentioned the shark to Phil after the race. He still remembers that moment as one of the scariest experiences of his life, even though that was not the first time he had seen such creatures.

  1. The finish line

The swim of Cook Strait was finished in 8 hours and 39 minutes. Adam Walker had to face strong currents, fatigue, sickness and a few meals skipped. Despite the extreme difficulty of this challenge, he managed to go ahead up to the end: it was the most exciting swim of his life. In particular, swimming with a bank of dolphins next to him was such a great experience that he would never forget. That was definitely a dangerous experience, but not the only one he had in his life. Walker attempted other long-distance swims and he had to face more challenges, including more sharks and a Portuguese man o’war.

  1. Gratitude

“Yesterday I swam the sixth of the Oceans Seven swims Cook Strait in 8 hours and 39 minutes”. With these words Adam Walker shared his incredible experience with his Facebook friends. He also added that he was sure that the dolphins had protected him and guided him, during this incredible swim: it was the toughest thing he had achieved in his life and swimming with the dolphins was something he would never forget. It is common to forget all the trouble, at the end of a very tough experience: Walker did not mention the rolling waves, big currents and the “behind-the-scenes drama”.

  1. Ocean Walker Stroke

It is worth remembering that during one of his long-distance swims, Adam Walker ruptured his tendon. After that, he had to change something in his swimming style if he wanted to keep going with this sport. His natural way of swimming was irritating his shoulder and causing further damages to the tendon. However, the last thing he wanted to do was giving up swimming. This is why he invented the “Ocean Walker Stroke technique”: he learned to use his core muscles to move him forward. Thanks to this technique he went through the Strait of Gibraltar and face all the Ocean Sevens swims. The funny thing about Walker is that he cannot sleep on his left side, but he can definitely swim for hours and hours and break records.

  1. A new business

Even though he was a record man swimmer, he never quit his national salesman position, as that was the way he could fund his races. Today he is not a salesman anymore. He is running his own business with girlfriend Gemma. The company is called “Ocean Walker Ltd” and specializes in coaching and training swimmers of all ages, both in open waters and swimming pools. During his classes he teaches people his Ocean Walker Stroke technique. These classes are especially popular among injured people who need to learn this style if they wish to continue with this sport. Walker also runs swim camps, one-on-one sessions and even online lessons.

  1. Motivational Speaking

After this series of incredible challenges, Adam Walker thought it was important to share his own experiences with other people. This is why he became a motivational speaker and started encouraging people to never give up even when everything seems lost. While speaking, he likes to show people photographs and videos which better explain what sort of adventure he embarked on. As well as a trainer and a motivational speaker, Adam Walker is also an ambassador for the Royal Life Saving Society UK for water safety and drowning prevention and Zoggs UK, a swimming gear and accessories company.

  1. Man vs Ocean

If you are curious and want to get in touch with Adam Walker, you can contact him via Internet. He owns two websites: one for his Ocean Walker business and one more personal where he shares news, media and blog posts, photos and thoughts about the Oceans Seven swims. His life experience is also contained in a book he has recently published, in which he tells the story of his journey from salesman to record-breaking swimmer. The book is called “Man vs Ocean” and got published in 2016. In the book, which became a bestselling sports autobiography on Amazon, Adam Walker speaks about the numerous obstacles he had to face before becoming a record-breaking swimmer.

  1. Not the first time

The funniest experience he lived, being surrounded by dolphins while swimming, is not unique at all, as other people experienced the same thing. Such stories are as old as the planet Earth: in ancient Greece for instance, there were several myths about dolphins guiding sailors to safety. In addition, recent documentaries have shown that dolphins are very likely to protect humans and other sea animals, such as whales. Below you will find  a few incredible stories about dolphins interacting with human beings.

  1. Dolphins save the day

In July 2002 fisherman Grant Dickson had his trawling boat overturned off the coast of Queensland, Australia. He was badly injured and was bleeding heavily: he managed to survive by holding what was left of the boat but also noticed that a group of sharks was following him closely. When recalling that terrible moment he said: “I was worried I was bleeding too much and the blood would attract the shark and that would be it. But the dolphins came to my rescue and chased away the shark. They saved my life”.

  1. Surf Scare

Todd Endris had a much more traumatic encounter with a shark. In August 2007 the 24-year-old man was out surfing in Marina, California, when he was beaten twice by a 15-foot-long white shark. Those bites made him lose a lot of blood: he was basically about to die, when a bank of 15 bottle-nose dolphins came over to help him. When reporting his experience during an interview with “The Discovery Channel” he said: “The dolphins were going absolutely crazy and really saved my life. I feel like they were jumping over the top of me and swarming around me. They kind of created a wall between me and the shark”. The recovery was not easy at all: he took him more than 6 months to get well again: he went on to advocate for animal protection.

  1. Lucky distraction

Another incident involving sharks took place in New Zealand in 2004. A 3 metres long white shark showed up in the water while a young woman and a few lifeguards were out at sea doing a training exercise. The marine creature started swimming around them and, a few minutes later, a few dolphins came over to swim together. They started to make loud noise and wave their tails around like crazy to distract the shark. The shark swam away immediately and the girl could complete her training session along with the lifeguards.

  1. Red Sea Rescue

Before the episode in New Zealand, another rescue had happened in 1996 in the Red Sea in Eilat, Israel. A group of tourists were having a tour on a boat to watch dolphins: some people were allowed to dive into the water and swim along with them. After the swim two of the tourists returned immediately on board, while the third person, a British tourist, decided to stay a little longer. A shark happened to be in the surroundings who took a bite out of him. More sharks were also coming toward him, just to make things even worse. At the same time three dolphins surrounded the poor tourist and made very loud noise: they jumped in the water crazily, hit the water with their flippers and tails. All this noise scared the sharks, who swam away for good.

  1. Save the Whales

Dolphins very often save lives and not human beings only. In 1983 a group of whales were rescued by dolphins at Tokerau Beach, in New Zealand. It was a big bank of 80 pilot whales who got stuck into the deeper waters during a huge tide. The whales lost completely the sense of direction and even though some people tried to guide them back and sponging their skin, the sharks could not make their way back into the water. Luckily, a pod of dolphins was swimming in the surroundings. They managed to herd the whales back out to sea. Most of them at least, 76 out of 80.

  1. Moko to the Rescue!

A very peculiar incident took place in New Zealand in 2008, where a dolphin named Moko was famous to play with tourists at the beach. One day there was an emergency and Moko turned out to be a true hero. A team of rescue workers had been trying for over two hours to redirect a pygmy sperm whale and her calf back out to sea. However, they kept getting stranded on a sandbar a few miles away from the shore. The emergency was easily solved when the dolphin took over. He guided the whales about 200 yards up to an opening in the sandbar from which they could re-enter the rest of the sea.

  1. Stranded at sea

Another rescue happened in the Red Sea, in Egypt, where a group of scuba divers were in trouble and got saved by a pod of dolphins. 12 people were out to explore the area and got lost for over 13 hours. Nobody could spot them: both planes and boats failed to locate them and the issue was getting quite serious. Eventually, a boat managed to spot them and what could be seen from the boat was quite interesting. Richard Hallam, one of the divers who got rescued that day described the adventure with these words: “One of the most amazing things was, after we were rescued, the guys on the boat said there were dolphins jumping across the prow in the direction we were really in”.

  1. Suicide Prevention

Dolphins are particularly sensitive and can smell a state of emergency from miles. A curious episode has been told by Maddalena Bearzi, president of the Ocean Conservation Society. In an article she published on “National Geographic” she recalls something that had happened while her team was following a group of bottle-nose dolphins. One of them left the group out of the blue and swam away. The dolphin was found later at least 3 miles away while he was rescuing a 18-year-old woman. She had been in the water for a long time and was about to die. In her pocket a suicide note was found. She was immediately rescued and her life was saved, thanks to the dolphin.

  1. Why do dolphins save others?

It is hard to say why dolphins are always so generous and loving towards other species. According to some researchers, dolphins behave like that because they expect a reward of food in returned, such as when people are rescued by a fishing boat. Some scientists believe that dolphins have excellent echolocation skills which allow them to hear heartbeats of fellow mammals and can detect when they are in distress. The same kind of behaviour is shown toward their own kind.