Date posted: 21/07/2022 5 min read

Inspiring CA’s global swim for mental health

Andrew Donaldson CA is a champion open water swimmer who’s tackling one of the swimming world’s greatest feats of endurance.

In Brief

  • Andrew Donaldson CA is completing an epic swim challenge to help raise awareness and money for mental health issues.
  • He says swimming has helped him take stock of his life and has been the catalyst for his reassessing his career.
  • Donaldson’s support team includes leading business and swim experts, and partners such as the Black Dog Institute.

Andrew Donaldson CA is a West Australian chartered accountant who’s going places.

Over the next year, he aims to embark on a series of gruelling trips to England, Spain, New Zealand, Hawaii, the US, Japan and Ireland.

It’s all part of a marathon swimming challenge involving seven long-distance open water channel swims – known as the Oceans Seven.

While there’s no George Clooney or Brad Pitt on this adventure (the stars of films: Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen), there will be potential dangers such as rough seas, freezing waters, sharks and jellyfish with 10m stinging tentacles. Donaldson wants to complete all seven solo in one year, totalling some 200km.

Channel

Distance 

Description 

Dates

Outcome

English Channel 33km England to France Aug 22, 2022
Completed
Strait of Gibraltar 14.4km
Spain to Morocco
TBC
 
Cook Strait
22km
North to South Island New Zealand
TBC
 
Molokai Channel
43km
Molokai to Oahu Hawaii
Apr 23, 2023
 
Tsugaru Strait
19.5km
Honshu to Hokkaido Japan
TBC  
Catalina Channel
32km
Santa Catalina to Los Angeles
Jul 23, 2023
 
North Channel
34km
Ireland to Scotland
Aug 23, 2023
 
  197.9km
     
Table: Seven toughest, and most iconic channel swims in the world. Source: Black Dog Institute website.

He’s also aiming to raise awareness and money for mental health – and he has a special message for CAs: don’t neglect to maintain the balance in your lives and don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues if things aren’t quite right.

“We’ve just been through two years of isolation and working from home and a lot of CAs might be suffering in silence,” he says. “I imagine there’s a lot of people who have been in that situation in the past two years.”

In fact, Donaldson was one of them.

Andrew Donaldson CAPictured: Andrew Donaldson CA

“We’ve just been through two years of isolation and working from home and a lot of CAs might be suffering in silence”
Andrew Donaldson CA

A struggle with the ‘black dog’

Donaldson experienced his own struggle with depression involving burnout from work and the end of a relationship. Prior to COVID-19 he took time off, went backpacking and ended up as a volcano tour guide in the Central American country of Nicaragua, but returned to WA as the pandemic took hold.

With the help of friends, he rekindled his love of swimming and won several long-distance events including the demanding 19.7km Rottnest Channel Swim – from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island – in Western Australia.

In other words, he found his mojo again.

The 31-year-old now swims two hours a day, six days a week, and clocks up about 50km in the water each week.

“Swimming is a sport where you’re out in the ocean or river with the elements where you’re free to be alone with your thoughts,” he says.

“In today’s society, where everyone is just ‘go, go, go’, it’s really nice to be able to slow things down and take that time out.”

In August 2022, Donaldson will be in England, to swim solo across the 33km English Channel to France. Later in the year, he aims to swim the 14.4km Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco.

Then, early in 2023, he’ll be tackling New Zealand’s Cook Strait, the 22km sea gap between the North and South Islands, and later the remaining four channel swims.

Taking stock of life

Donaldson says in effect, swimming has helped him take stock of his life and has been the catalyst not only for him to reassess his life, but also his career.

Upon purchasing an industrial cleaning business with a group of people, he now does most of his work at home or remotely. “That’s opened up a lot of different worlds for me and given me the flexibility to pursue challenges such as this,” he says.

Donaldson might be swimming solo, but there’s a strong team behind him, including highly-skilled sports, nutrition and business experts. They include former world champion marathon swimmer Shelley Taylor-Smith, Donaldson’s mentor and mindset coach.

“That’s something I learned from working in business and the corporate world, you can’t do these things on your own and you try to surround yourself with the best,” he reveals.

Andrew Donaldson CAPictured: Andrew Donaldson CA

Raising awareness for mental health

Donaldson is using the challenge as a platform to raise as much money and awareness as possible for his chosen charity the Black Dog Institute.

As well as helping Black Dog, he is also hoping to raise an initial A$100,000 and sponsorship to assist with airfares, accommodation and logistics, and further funding for a television documentary. Plus, he wants to become the first person ever to swim all seven channels in one year.

Seven crossings in a year will be a tough task, especially with complications such as strong currents, freezing waters, and even possible encounters with sharks and other scary sea creatures.

“I’m someone who doesn’t necessarily like cold water and I’m terrified of jellyfish, so I think the toughest and coldest leg for me might be swimming the North Channel, from Ireland to Scotland, where water temperatures might only be 10 degrees,” he says.

“It also has the lion’s mane jellyfish, one of the largest, most venomous in the world with tentacles that can be more than 10 metres in length. So, I’ve kept that swim until the end!”

To keep track of Andrew’s epic venture and help support the project go to the Black Dog Institute website.

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