Historic Cayman swim highlights battle against plastic

| 18/05/2022 | 61 Comments

(CNS): A history-making swim all the way around Grand Cayman by British environmental activist Oly Rush not only put the island on the map for endurance open water swimming but also served to raise awareness and cash for Cayman’s growing non-profit advocacy group, Plastic Free Cayman.

After more than 36 hours in the sea swimming some 65 miles, Rush walked out of the ocean to a huge welcome in West Bay on Tuesday evening, but there were no MPs or government ministers there to mark this incredible feat.

Nevertheless, students, environmentalists and dozens of West Bayers spurred Rush on for the last few yards and were there to greet him after his superhuman efforts to raise thousands of dollars to help address plastic pollution here.

The 37-year-old plasterer from Dorset, England, who made the history books as the first person to swim around Grand Cayman, was in great spirits and doing very well when he emerged from the sea to the cheering crowd.

Rush had started out at 5am from the West Bay Dock on Discovery Day and returned to the same spot a day and a half later. Claire Hughes, the founder of Plastic Free Cayman and one of an army of support volunteers for the event, said Rush swam strong and steady throughout the incredible journey.

She said that there were no shark encounters and, with the exception of some strong currents at times, the marathon swim went off like a dream, with Rush maintaining a more or less consistent and very impressive 44 strokes per minute pace throughout the entire time.

Hughes explained that Rush swam mostly outside the reef but came inside as he passed through Colliers in East End during Monday night, guided by Steve Broadbelt from Ocean Frontiers and his team, who helped Rush through the difficult currents. Rush also came inside at Barkers at the start of the swim and again at Surfers Beach in South Sound as he headed into the final leg.

He swam in very deep water when passing Pedro Castle, but the volunteer organising team had done a risk assessment for the swim regarding sharks, Hughes said.

In 2011 two sharks were killed when open water swimmer Penny Palfrey swam from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman, marring the world record event. But Huges explained that they used shark shields at all times and except for one nurse shark there were no close encounters.

“This was a coastal navigation and we were always close to shore,” she said, explaining the difference and the confidence they had that Rush would not be at risk. Describing him as “Aquaman” and the ultimate athlete, she said he had raised awareness about plastic pollution, which was washing ashore even as she spoke to the press.

Rush was unable to speak directly to the media when he emerged from the water due to the impact of saltwater on his tongue, but he was clearly delighted to have completed the historic swim which has never been done before. Although he appeared to be in very good health, as a precaution he was taken to hospital by paramedics to be checked out.

Before setting out, Rush had said that we all have a duty to protect the planet and the people getting involved are doing so because they believe in the cause, not for financial or material gain.

“The greatest gift I have ever had was the ability to find true happiness from the natural beauty that surrounds us, to stare out to sea in awe of its vast, ever-changing picture and song, or to gaze up at the millions of stars on a clear night. Money cannot buy those emotions or feelings. It took me 30-plus years to be able to see the natural beauty out there and begin the journey I’m currently on. Whatever the outcome of this next awareness swim, I’ve fully accepted its value is far greater than the gift of life I have been blessed with,” he said, adding that he would “swim until I’m either dragged out or crawl up the beach at the finish line”.

Speaking on his behalf after he landed safely on the beach, Jen Wardman, a long-time friend of Rush and one of the local organisers for the event, said he had done an amazing job. He had done it because, like her and many of the people that were there to witness his return to land, he cares passionately about the need to address plastic pollution, she noted.

“This is incredible support,” she said as she came out of the water after paddling with Rush for the last leg of the swim. As Rush walked from the sea into the arms of friends and family, Wardman said she was overwhelmed by his efforts and that he should be celebrated.

“But it’s not about him; it’s that he was willing to die for the cause of Mother Earth and more people should wake up and take a look. Governments specifically need to understand that these issues are not going away,” Wardman said.

Hughes explained that the money Rush has raised will help PFC meet its growing needs and employ full-time staff, taking the campaign to the next level. While the last two governments have said that they intend to ban some single-use plastics, the committee formed to shape the legislation has not met since before the pandemic.

Hughes told CNS that the group has heard nothing from the government about the promised legislation since before the lockdown. She said that Rush “is really worried and disturbed by plastic pollution and that a lot of people are turning a blind eye to it, and all governments in every country need to do more”.

The fact that no one attended to represent government, either elected officials or senior administrators, was disappointing for the large team that had come together to organise the swim. The Cayman Islands Coast Guard had assisted with support for the actual swim and paramedics were on hand if needed, but despite the public concern about plastic pollution, the lack of official representation was noted.

Shirley Roulstone, one of Cayman’s most notable activists from the successful Cruise Port Referendum Campaign, told CNS that she was shocked and hurt that no officials cared enough to come out and witness this historic event, which was great publicity for the country.

“This man is a hero. He has done something really, really wonderful for us and not one single member of Parliament… is out here to witness this and show their appreciation,” she said, adding that it was also embarrassing. “I’m gobsmacked, to be honest.”

Broadbelt, CITA director for watersports and one of the volunteers who spent four hours with Rush during his East End leg, also noted the importance of this type of publicity for the islands because it shows just how beautiful the conditions are here.

“It highlights how beautiful the waters are and how safe they are to swim around. What he did was like climbing Mount Everest and it had its challenges that they had to plan very carefully for, but it was great that he chose here,” Broadbelt said, adding that Cayman is a great venue for these types of events.

The Flowers One Mile Sea Swim takes place next month and he said that this historic event helps promote open water events like that, which fill hotel rooms. “This puts Cayman on the map for open water swimming.”

Showing an appreciation for Rush’s incredible accomplishment, Broadbelt noted, “He’s got some guts.”


Share your vote!


How do you feel after reading this?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: Local News, Sports

Comments (61)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    From the above article:
    (Steve) Broadbelt…noted the importance of this type of publicity for the islands because it shows just how beautiful the conditions are here. “It highlights how beautiful the waters are and how safe they are to swim around”.
    Hmmm…I am not so sure about the value of the publicity if today’s article in the UK’s Mirror is any indication of the publicity we will gain.
    From the Mirror UK–22 May 2022
    The headline:
    “Brit becomes first person to swim through shark-infested waters around Grand Cayman”
    Here are the first few lines of the article and they comprise about half of the piece:
    A British plasterer endured 60 miles in shark-infested water to become the first person to swim around the island of Grand Cayman.
    Eco warrior Oly Rush, 37, finished the circumnavigation of the Caribbean isle in just under 37 hours.
    He was later taken to hospital suffering from dehydration.
    Oly, from Poole, Dorset, said: “I got round but it was absolutely brutal.”It was so difficult and we took the threat of sharks very seriously.”
    ……..
    I do realise that the Mirror is a tabloid stye news outlet, but still, this is not the best publicity for a dive and water sports destination. Modern mainstream media today are almost as taken up with posting sensational headlines as the market checkout stand tabloids, so let’s hope that future articles in other publications paint us in a bit better light.

    CNS: British tabloids have always published bulshit with sensational headlines. It’s their thing. You’re using the “mainstream media” US buzzwords without understanding the UK media.

    • Anonymous says:

      In all fairness, I shall respectfully proffer that a careful and critical read of my comment will reveal that I did concede that the Mirror was a tabloid journalistic entity. The tabloid genre is generally the same whether the USA or the UK. Yes, I am aware that BS abounds. I need no special knowledge of the UK tabloids as they are hardly different from the USA tabloids when it comes to publishing BS.
      My use of the term “mainstream media” was certainly appropriate as it was part of my moot that the mainstream media in the USA and UK (which includes big city and small town legacy local papers, and their online counterparts) are often in the same pit as the checkout stand tabloids when it comes to competing by offering sensationalised stories and headlines designed to get coveted clicks and newspaper buys, rather than convey facts. While you and I might be old school in our desire to deal with facts, warts and all, the prime directive for corporate-owned mainstream media is to make money. Reporting non-spun facts in an unbiased way is secondary to that. The money aspect necessitates getting the clicks and selling the headlines and pulp that delve into things that capture readers’ attention by catering to the hunger and biases of the respective media outlet’s base demographic. Truth becomes secondary to avarice. Thus, BS abounds well beyond the tabloid genre. Swimmer vs sharks invites clicks.
      There are now more articles with the “shark-infested waters” shade. Among them (and counting)…
      The Verified News Explorer Channel (online)
      Bluzz (online)
      England Times (online)
      Yahoo!Sport UK (online)
      The Dorset Echo (online)
      Bournemouth Daily Echo (online) [Bournemouth Daily Echo is a daily paper whose coverage includes Oly’s hometown of Poole. It is owned by Newsquest Media Group Ltd, which is the second largest publisher of regional and local newspapers in the United Kingdom.]
      Now to decide where to draw the line that defines “mainstream” from alternative or tabloid in a particular city, town or wider geographical area. There seems to be no standard definition now that the term is in global use.
      I am sure there will be many more sharks in the media waters as the story penetrates the news echo-chambers. [Update: I just checked, several more similar “shark” accounts coming up in search engines.]

  2. Anonymous says:

    The fact that the gov thought this wasn’t priority really says it all

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s nice he didn’t kill any sharks like the Palfrey debacle.

    15
    10
  4. Anonymous says:

    Can you name the 5 persons in Cayman who currently profit most from styrofoam? Hint: They will all be generational Caymanians.

    14
    3
  5. Cheese Face says:

    Very impressive sir! I’d struggle to swim the length of my bath.

    20
    3
  6. Anonymous says:

    Sadly instead of focusing on this great achievement, Caymanians inject politics into it and diminish the value of the point that Oly spent all of this time in the water.

    Congrats Oly and thanks for bringing continued awareness. I am sure you didn’t do this expecting to finish and shake some politicians hand for a photo op.

    52
    4
    • Anonymous says:

      @ 12:06AM…I understand where you’re coming from but please refrain from putting all Caymanians into the same category as what one Caymanian’s opinion is regarding the politicians being absent.

      But to be fair to Mr. Rush it is the sheer principle that a Government politician should have been there to at least shake his hand out of respect. No need for a photo op to prove what? He is already above their status….do you see any of them getting in the water swimming around the island? As usual it is always a non-caymanian going above and beyond for our own country and that is the honest truth…whoever don’t like it can kiss my A$%.

      A born Caymanian

      8
      1
      • Anonymous says:

        @12:10 pm

        Agreed.

        A great feat, for a great cause!

        Yet no CIG Official/s there to congratulate. Simply disgusting!

  7. Frustrated Caymanian says:

    Ashamed to say I am Caymanian, CIG What an utter disappointment.

    31
    5
  8. Anonymous says:

    Amazing.

    The human spirit is an incredible thing.

    29
    2
  9. Anonymous says:

    Congrats Oly Rush!

    Shame on Caymanian “politicians” …”Ministers of Sports, Tourism (“free” promotion paid for by Mr. Rush’s own gofundme and other donors)…where were you and “your” associated CIG Departments? Simply disgusting!

    Sig: Ashamed of fellow Caymanians

    45
    8
  10. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations and much respect for your achievement and spirit! 🥳 🎉!

    54
    2
  11. Anonymous says:

    The charging of plastic bags in grocery stores are such a rip off…just go other hardware stores the bags free and 10 times the size…

    19
    32
    • H. Onda says:

      let’s follow our neighbour country, the one that everyone criticizes, you know Jamaica. no plastic bags in the grocery shops in Kingston. 100% duty on cars and you can’t import anything older than 7 years old.

      9
      3
      • Anonymous says:

        One of the main reasons so many cars are stolen here.

        9
        2
      • Anonymous says:

        Jamaica: Where you can get an anti-plastic paper straw wrapped in…(seriously?)…a plastic sleeve.

        3
        1
      • Anonymous says:

        To follow Jamaica in regard to cutting down on the use of private automobiles, Cayman would have to have at least the equivalent of JUTC, plus a dependable and affordable transport to/from/between the urban centre(s) and outlying districts; which will never happen in our lifetime.

    • Anonymous says:

      The hope was to encourage people to bring reusable bags by charging a fee for the disposables. Perhaps the cost incentive has not been as incentivising as hoped.

      3
      2
  12. Anonymous says:

    I doubt it. More likely to build condos over turtle nesting areas

    12
    3
  13. Anonymous says:

    All the support was unpaid for and voluntary. Clearly it was the deep belief in making a change that brought everyone together. Bravo I say!

    54
    2
  14. Anonymous says:

    “but it’s great that he chose here”? Where else would he choose for a swim around Grand Cayman?

    13
    19
  15. Colonel Sanders says:

    Unfortunately, Oly chose to finish at the same time as many politicians would have been queuing up for a pre dinner bargain bucket at KFC.

    39
    4
  16. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know who made any donations, but I know who has a great interest in selling styrofoam………..and I have seen in the news that he is now a billionaire. And would you believe I have never known of any Cayman politician making any effort to prohibit the use of styrofoam in the Cayman Islands??? I wonder if the use of styrofoam is banned in some of the more intelligent countries….?

    24
    8
    • Anonymous says:

      With the free lunches given to all students at government schools, the plastic/styrofoam use is ridiculous. One small primary school on the Brac sees each student receiving a morning breakfast served in a styrofoam container along with a juice or milo in a styrofoam cup. When the breakfast is waffles, the syrup is also in individual plastic containers. The snack is individually bagged, and if an apple or banana, this too comes wrapped in plastic. Same for lunch, more styrofoam. And individual bottles of water. Prior to the free lunches, all students brought refillable water bottles, very satisfied with the city water.
      SMH

      34
      5
      • Anonymous says:

        It is true that there are still some companies that provide school lunches in styrofoam and serve water in plastic bottles. However, the largest school lunch provider in Cayman is very conscious about using single use plastics and serves all lunches in eco-friendly containers and water in cans. It should be mandated by Government that no styrofoam is used in their school program.

        17
        3
      • Anonymous says:

        Cayman Brac? You mean the island where every building site that you see entails bulldozing the land flat and not a single tree or living thing is left standing? Even the flora protected by LAW is hauled off to the dump. All with the blessing of the Brac’s government-appointed Development Control Board. That Cayman Brac?
        Cayman Brac is more or less still kind of pristine NOT by Brackers’ choices: until quite recently Cayman Brac simply had little inward investment and development. Left up to Brackers the island would be a barren concrete jungle environmental disaster that would make 7-Mile Beach look like a nature park in comparison.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Some commenters here really are grim. Please, try to be happy for once. You dont have to complain about literally everything.

    Congrats to Oly.

    39
    7
    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry for the public stepping on your toes… err should I say your boss Dart’s toes.

      But then he needs people to stamp on both his feet as he is tramping on every aspect of our Caymanian society.

      Dart Trolls go home.

      5
      6
  18. Anonymous says:

    MLAs ignoring an expats achievements that they benefit from, that’s rare!

    34
    3
  19. Anonymous says:

    I am very embarrassed that the government did not support this event. Two plus years left…

    41
    4
    • Anonymous says:

      Where was the minister of Sport?

      29
      2
    • Anonymous says:

      Were the Ministers officially invited?
      Was a programme of events sent including the day and times for the ministers to speak?
      Was an official meet and greet with Oly planned so that ministers would understand what he is about?

      This is a great initiative I’m sure they would be in support of, but in all fairness if their PAs don’t know about it, they don’t know about it.

      Event planning is not as easy a feat as some may think.

      A lost opportunity for all if the PFC did send official invitations.

      9
      14
    • Anonymous says:

      The self righteous plastic free vote is not large enough to be of concern to them.

      • Anonymous says:

        Walk through town with a spliff though advocating for medicinal rights and you’ll get a A/C ride to the BT hotel!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Our politicians might have shown some interest if he had crawled his way onto the beach to lay eggs under the light of the full moon.

    53
    7
    • Anonymous says:

      The shameless forever honorable from West Bay could at least have shown up for a photo op.

      26
    • Anonymous says:

      Congrats to Mr Rush for a fantastic effort. However, the next election is too far in the future for them to care about nesting turtles or anything other than renaming the tourism stipend to be a permanent handout. I suspect, that if Mr Rush had proposed to cut down miles of mangrove with a solar-powered saw, they would cheer him on for taking a carbon-neutral approach to destroying our coastline.

      26
      1
  21. Anonymous says:

    more expat excellence.
    classic cig ignorance in ignoring the effort.

    82
    4
  22. Anonymous says:

    For the sake of transparency, tell us all how much money was donated to Plastic Free Cayman? Not enough to pay for the gas for the support vessels would be my guess.

    21
    73
    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for your most helpful comment, which is enormously relevant. Muppet.

      29
      5
    • Anonymous says:

      Still time to write a check, brother.

      26
      2
    • trollbasher says:

      For the sake of transparency, tell us all what you have done to improve your carbon foot print. Not enough to cover the energy of your trolling messages would be my guess.

      29
      6
    • Anonymous says:

      I suspect the purpose was to raise awareness rather than money, so now even morons who really don’t care can say they are aware (or strictly speaking they have been informed) of the need to restrict single-use plastics.

      25
      2
    • Anonymous says:

      How much did you donate to the effort?

      16
      5
    • Anonymous says:

      what kind of comment is this? i believe the gas used to power the boat was donated – also the amount donated to Plastic Free Cayman is publicly available information. Take a look at their facebook and get your facts straight before making such ridiculous comment.

      27
      4
    • Anonymous says:

      I did wonder that. Taking nothing away from him, but
      Who paid for him & his his fiancée to fly here?
      Who is paying for him to stay here?
      Who is paying for his hospital stay?
      If funds will pay for a staff member at Plastic Cayman, who pays that bill next year?

      6
      23
      • Anonymous says:

        do you know how fundraisers and events like this work? even if all of these things were paid for by plastic free cayman – they still raised a lot of money to help PFC continue its excellent work and mission.
        And Morritts was a sponsor who donated accommodations (they said so themselves on facebook)

        21
        3
    • Anonymous says:

      his gofundme says 16,800 pounds (publicly available and transparent) and there was plenty more $$ raised during the fundraiser event The gas money was most likely donated but even if that was not the case it would only be a small percentage of the overall money raised.

      19
      3
    • Anonymous says:

      It also says, “Any extra funds we raise will go straight towards the charity Plastic Free Cayman” so is the ‘extra’ the cut after the initial $10k goal met or the total est funds raised on the gofundme (currently @~17k)? Obv expenses are par for course and it might be a relief to alleviate the public of concern of any cost incurred thus far to get a better sense towards the estimated total charitable contribution as funds continue to be raised. Will PFC make mention of the total in a future statement? One can hope.

      4
      1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.