Hope for clear waters ahead

AS he describes his experiences swimming in the warm waters off Barbados, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ollie Turner was recounting a recent holiday.

In fact, the elite triathlete was in the Caribbean island to train for this year’s series of competitions but, while his mind was focused on his performance, he could not help being struck by his surroundings.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever swum anywhere quite like that,’ he said. ‘I’ve never been anywhere where the water was so clear. Every time I went into the sea I saw turtles and other marine wildlife. It was stunning.’

It was also, he said, a far cry from the sea around Cardiff, where he trains with the National Triathlon Performance Centre of Wales.

‘While the open-water lakes in Cardiff are quite clean, the sea is not very nice to swim in,’ said the former Le Rocquier student. ‘At Barry Island you can’t even see your hand in front of you.’

But despite the less-than-pleasant conditions in UK waters, it was not until Ollie watched the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy that he realised how serious the issue of marine pollution was.

‘It really hit home when I watched that,’ he explained. ‘I’d seen rubbish in the water or on the shore in the UK but most places where I’ve swum have been very clean. In Singapore, for example, where I thought there might be more litter, the water was spotless. However, having watched the documentary I am now much more conscious of the impact that rubbish can have on the wildlife. Seeing images of dolphins or seals stuck in nets is incredibly sad, especially as it’s so easily preventable. I now take a couple of seconds to pick up any rubbish that I see on the beach.’

Beach cleanliness is an area close to his heart not just because of his sporting career but as a result of his childhood memories.

‘Growing up in Jersey was pretty special. I lived just a couple of steps away from the beach, so I was in the sea nearly every day ¬¬– especially during the summer,’ he said. ‘I’m definitely a water baby. I used to do a lot of spear fishing as well, and it was amazing to see so many stingrays and dolphins in our waters.’

And, despite having swum in oceans all around the world, the seas around Jersey remain among his favourite.

‘There is such a variety around the Island, from the lovely open beaches in Grouville and St Brelade to the north coast, where you get a really different experience around the rugged cliffs,’ he said. ‘I’ve also done a couple of really nice open-water swims in St Ouen. When you get really clean surf, and get out past the waves, it is so tranquil. It’s just you and nature.

‘I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy the swimming training so much, as it’s quite mindful. Although I’m quite an extrovert, I love the anti-social side of swimming and the mental-health benefits that it brings. When I’m in the water I’m thinking about my sport, how I want to compete and how I want the next race to go.’

• Ollie Turner is sponsored by ecoJersey partner Fairway.

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