by Hannah Gabrielle More
When the Director of the feature documentary “Oceans 7” first approached me with the film, I was immediately enthused by Beth French’s story and the incredible adventure she was undertaking. Beth was about to embark on her final swim outside of the U.K. – the notorious Tsugaru Strait, Japan. It was her fifth swim and, like all the crossings, it came with it’s own unique set of challenges (strong currents, marine life, cold temperatures). But with Beth having swum a total of 73 miles across 4 equally taxing crossings in the last 8 months, I wished them luck on the shoot / swim and didn’t give it too much thought. We all knew Beth was physically capable, determined and getting closer to achieving her goal of becoming the first person to complete the Oceans Seven challenge in one year.
The Oceans Seven challenge consists of seven long-distance open-water swims across the most dangerous sea channels in the world. For extreme swimmers it’s the ultimate test — the equivalent of climbing the seven summits in mountaineering. Only six people have ever completed the challenge but never in one year.
Beth’s pursuit to complete the Oceans Seven challenge is made all the more extraordinary by the fact that, in her youth, Beth suffered from severe M.E. (Myalgic Encephalopathy), a.k.a. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a condition she wasn’t formally diagnosed with until she was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 17. Beth spent much of her adult life searching for a way of coping with an illness that doctors still know little about. She traveled and studied abroad, learning about indigenous alternatives to healthcare; including Lomi Lomi, an ancient Hawaiian massage technique and she ordained as a Buddhist nun in a Thai monastery, where she delved deep into practicing meditation. But the key for managing her M.E. has been her love for water and her ‘discovery’ of long-distance swimming.
As well as taking on the colossal task of planning and preparing for the Oceans Seven challenge, Beth was also raising her son, Dylan. Beth cited her motivation for setting out on her Oceans Seven adventure as a way to teach her son, who has autism, that you are not limited by your condition. You can overcome your impediments and adversities by facing them head on with confidence and resolve. But with Dylan becoming increasingly anxious about the many long-haul trips and struggling with the constant changes to his routine, he began expressing worries about being separated from his mother during the swims and started fearing for her life. Due to this, during Beth’s fifth swim and with only two more swims left to complete, she found the clarity and courage to make one of the most difficult decisions of her life: to stop the challenge for the sake of her son. Perhaps teaching him an even greater life lesson; it’s admirable to know when to stop.
“It was a huge decision, but the lesson I chose today is to let go. I know I can be driven, I am tenacious and I absolutely believe that I could achieve Oceans7 in a year. But the cost to my son is too great. My perspective is that this adventure has taught me so much. I don’t need to prove anything.”
– Beth French.
In order to help raise funds for shooting the last crucial scenes of the film, the Oceans 7 team are currently running a crowd-funding campaign. They need your support, so please check out their crowd-funding campaign here – http://bit.ly/O7-crowdfunding. They have some great rewards and 5% of all funds raised go to the charity Action for M.E.
To find out more about film, filmmaking team and watch their teaser trailer, head to the Oceans 7 website – www.oceans7thefilm.com