Every woman's liberation looks different. Multiple record holder & champion in extreme outdoor swimming
“Being in the water gives me freedom. It’s where I belong," says Beth French.
Every woman’s liberation looks different. For Beth French – multiple record holder and champion in extreme outdoor swimming – it looks like the open water.
Beth French is an open water swimmer who's best known for swimming the English Channel seven years ago and then becoming the first person to swim 26 miles from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly two years later.
There is a film about her life, AGAINST THE TIDES - see www.againstthetidesfilm.com - that reveals the extraordinary story of a single British mother of an autistic son, and living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E.) herself, sets out to swim Oceans Seven, the ultimate extreme swimming challenge – to show her son that anything in life is possible.
The Oceans Seven challenge is an odyssey-like relay - very few people have ever completed it – in which the swimmer must test their own limits going shore-to-shore across seven of the world’s most dangerous sea channels.
The challenge took Beth all over the world, along with her team, and the BAFTA-winning director Stefan Stuckert of the critically-acclaimed documentary AGAINST THE TIDES. The documentary received film festival nominations for Best Documentary as well as critical acclaim from TV presenter Lorraine Kelly.
Beth is a self-starter in the world of her sport. Inspired by the way the water alleviated symptoms and memories of her chronic illness – Beth decided to undertake the immense training of extreme outdoor swimming herself. Although she utilized a small, close-knit team for the Oceans Seven challenge - Beth takes the strategy of her survival on the open water into her own hands. Beth is in charge of scheduling food and energy breaks, and plotting her course to the shore in real time, during exhausting hours in the water and even when the sea gets rough.
Beth is a single working mother and despite not having the privilege to retire and train full time for her passion, she is the first person, and only woman, to swim from Cornwall to Scilly Isles (26 miles), the first British woman to complete the massive Molokai channel (28 miles) and the only woman to swim it twice, and a co-world record holder for completing four Oceans 7 swims in a single year.
Her Beth’s experience as a single mother is intertwined with her athleticism. As her devoted son Dylan regularly waits for her at every shoreline, he is both the reason to start and to complete the swim. Beth’s approach to motherhood is a liberated one, one in which her own goals and personhood isn’t defined by her domestic life. She believes that being the “best version of herself” (including her athleticism) is how she can best influence Dylan’s life. Dylan is on the autistic spectrum. And due to her own life experience with disability, Beth wishes to show her son that he doesn’t have to limit his dreams to suit anyone else’s expectations of him. Never afraid to take the unconventional route, Beth removed Dylan from his school when she saw that his needs were not being met and his self-esteem plummeted. Now, he is home-schooled with Beth, who is dedicated to seeing him thrive and believe in himself.
Beth’s challenge was less about a world record or a certain width of water crossed. Instead, it was one women’s personal experience - for herself and for her family.
Beth is a great example of balancing self-care with personal ambition. As a regular public speaker, she has appeared at the Inspire movement at Google HQ, the Women’s Adventure Expo, and RAC Pall Mall to share her story and spread the word about M.E and female athleticism.
Beth French continues to travel with her son Dylan, as well as speak at public events and train in a variety of outdoor sports.