Conquest over challenges
Challenge… a call to prove or justify something.
More people have climbed Mt Everest than have swum the English Channel from England to France. The water is very cold, there is plenty of swell, large tides and jelly fish. The straight line distance is 36km however this ranges widely depending on conditions.
Meet best mates Quinn Darragh and Luke Stewart. They love a challenge and a great cause. In September 2020, the challenge is to individually swim the English Channel.
The pandemic has taken the challenge that will already test them to their limits, to another level.
When all pools closed, followed by Waverley Council and then Randwick Council beaches earlier this year, with no timeframe for reopening, you could have forgiven Quinn and Luke for throwing in the towel.
The pair were forced to ocean swim under the cover of darkness. Applying responsible physical distancing measures, they were joined by successful English Channel swimmers, Emily Miers and Murph Renford.
As Quinn puts it, “When its 5am and pitch black, the wind is blowing off the mountains, the water is cold and you can’t see the swell coming towards you, you’re not sure what is under you and you’re in your swimmers, you think wow – we better get a shot at this bloody swim!”. Luke adds, “You have to keep coming back to your purpose to get you through, and the respect you have for your swimming partners to keep fronting up”.
Both Quinn and Luke have had to overcome their own health challenges, contributing to their positive mind-set today.
Quinn was diagnosed with Crohns disease at 12 years of age. Crohns is a painful and debilitating autoimmune disease that can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract. In 2013, just before the birth of his first son, pre-cancerous cells forced him into surgery to have his entire large intestine removed. Working as a professional lifeguard at Bondi beach, he continued working with the colostomy bag that he kept from his workmates until the second surgery was scheduled to rebuild his digestive tract. The second surgery was a success, however resulted in an excruciating blockage the first time he ate, followed by sepsis and rehospitalisation. With a young family, Quinn lay on his hospital bed thinking of ways he could show his young son that when life gets tough, there’s an appropriate way to respond.
As a CEO and Managing Director of professional services firm EMM Consulting, Luke shares that co-founding and growing a company at the same time as having a young family presented many challenges along the way. “For a long period, I was trying to be the perfect person at work, husband, father and still get my training done. I put too much pressure on myself over a long period of time and thought I was going crazy for a while. Despite this I always kept moving forward and learnt how to best focus this drive.”
Without having a swimming background, for Luke, the swim provides a unique opportunity to prove that if you put in the effort and focus, anything is possible. Quinn adds “I love a challenge and this swim will be the biggest challenge to date. Hopefully, this also inspires a few people to challenge themselves and get outside their comfort zone”.
The pair are aiming to raise $74,000 for the Running for Premature Babies Foundation after Quinn and his wife Sheree’s son Ryder, was born at 27 weeks, weighing just 1kg, and benefitted from lifesaving equipment provided by this charity. All money raised will go to Running for Premature Babies to fund the purchase of a neonatal ventilator for the Royal Hospital for Women NICU, which will help save the lives of over 600 critically ill babies .