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Dolphins Surround Swimmer; When He Looks Down He Understands Why

Depths of the Ocean - Shark and Dolphins

When taking on the treacherous waters of the chilly ocean, champion swimmers have a lot on their minds. While they are aware that lots of dangerous marine animals roam the waters (it is their territory after all) they don’t really think too much about it – perhaps to block it out. When this man set out to swim in Cook Strait in New Zealand, he had no idea he was about to get the fright of a lifetime. He was surrounded by a group of dolphins, but was horrified when he looked down and realized why they were there. Read on to find out what happened after he looked down!

1. A Sportsman From the Get-Go

Growing up in Nottingham, U.K., Adam Walker always enjoyed sports. During his teen years, he excelled as a rugby and cricket player in school and loved playing alongside his older brother. His dad Peter was always cheering on his boys on the sidelines.

Shark and Dolphins


Unfortunately, Adam had to give up on those sports as a result of back and knee injuries. This is when he turned to swimming, a sport he was just as adept in. In fact, Adam was so good that he began to swim competitively. Adam might not have been aware of it yet, but this sport would serve as the start to some pretty wild adventures for him, and there was one particular adventure that would change his life forever.

2. When Duty Calls

By the time Adam Walker left university, he knew he needed to make a solid living and decided to follow in the footsteps of his family and embark on a career in sales. His smart and dedicated nature helped him move up the ladder, and before he knew it, he landed a respectable title as a national salesman.

When Duty Calls - Shark and Dolphins

Walker was meeting his targets and making a name for himself. After all, his competitive nature hailed from his days as a sportsman. However, he felt something was missing in his life. He had this nagging feeling at the back of his mind.

3. Eureka!

The watershed moment for Adam Walker occurred when he boarded a plane to Australia for a family holiday in 2006. To pass the time, he tuned in to an in-flight movie called On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, about a man who decided to swim the English Channel after losing his job.

Adam Walker on Airplane - Shark and Dolphins

After Walker watched the film, he was so inspired that he made his own life-changing decision. Yes, Walker decided he was going to swim the English Channel. He set himself a date and embarked on a vigorous training schedule to prepare for the swim.

4. Pushing Himself to the Max

Until this point, Walker’s routine was just work, eat, sleep, and repeat. Well, everything changed when he set his mind on completing one of the most difficult challenges of swimming the English Channel. His stamina and endurance were going to be pushed to the max, so he needed to be physically and mentally prepared.

Preparing for English Channel - Shark and Dolphins

He needed to acclimate his body to cold temperatures, get used to formidable water currents and waves, and conceptualize the idea of being around dangerous marine life. He would have to learn how to deal with them. One can’t exactly out-swim a shark, right?

5. Oceans Seven

On July 14th, 2008, Walker conquered the English Channel, and it wasn’t all smooth sailing. He felt sick from the swells and currents and said the water “was chopping like a washing machine.” After that, he was immediately onto the next challenge. Walker wanted to take on the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a shorter distance with warmer water. On July 5th, 2011, he swam not one but both ways in the Strait, making him the first British person to achieve the crossing.

Adam Walker - Shark and Dolphins

Around the same time that he completed this challenge, a new long-distance swimming marathon called Oceans Seven was created, and lo and behold, the English Channel and Strait of Gibraltar were on the list. With two already down, Walker couldn’t have felt more determined and ready for the challenge of completing all seven. But would he be ready for what he was going to encounter in the Cook Strait?!

6. Conquering the Oceans Seven

Adam Walker has also swam through the Molokai Strait in Hawaii, Catalina Channel in California, Tsugaru Strait in Japan, and the North Channel between Great Britain and Ireland. He is one of only 10 swimmers and the only British one in history to complete this challenge so far.

Conquering the Oceans Seven - Shark and Dolphins

It took him six years to complete all seven swims and he has wild tales to share about each one. No matter what, his encounter with dolphins still takes the cake as the strangest experience of all. Read on to hear some of the insane stories that led up to his dolphin experience.

7. A Ruptured Tendon

One scary moment came during his English Channel swim. Walker ruptured a bicep tendon. He was already feeling sick as it was and the water was extremely choppy, but he decided to soldier on as it was his first long-distance swim.

Adam Walker - Shark and Dolphins

Unfortunately the damage was done, even after three operations to re-attach the fibers to the tendon. The doctors instructed Walker never to swim again, but he wasn’t about to give up then. That’s when he invented his very own swimming technique!

8. Portuguese man o’ war

While swimming the Molokai Strait for 17 hours and 2 minutes, Walker encountered a dangerous jellyfish, a frightening-looking Portuguese man o’ war. When it stung him he couldn’t feel his spine for five minutes, but he still had to soldier on.

Portuguese Man 'o war - Shark and Dolphins

A Portuguese man o’ war is as venomous as a cobra snake and the sting can cause serious damage. “I had to pull tentacles off my stomach, I lost feeling in my spine and I thought I’d been paralyzed. I basically had to go through three and a half hours of agony to complete the swim,” Walker said. We are not sure what’s worse: getting stung by dangerous sea creature or what happened during his next swim…

9. Swimming in a Dark Ocean

When Walker took on the Catalina Channel off the coast of California, his arm started up again, but the scariest part was that he had to swim six of the 12 hours in complete darkness as the swim started at midnight.

Catalina Strait - Shark and Dolphins

Imagine swimming in a huge ocean for that long in pitch darkness without knowing what could be lurking beneath! He also felt freezing and sick throughout the swim, which rendered this swim probably the least enjoyable one compared to the rest.

10. Sharks and Such Things

Walker pushed himself to the limit in the Tsugaru Channel in Japan. He felt ill for the first four hours of the swim, and then a shark swam underneath him as well. To make matters worse, he had to swim at a high speed because the current was coming in.

Adam Walker - Shark and Dolphins

This meant Walker had to charge through 12 -foot-high waves while sprint swimming for 11 hours. While the waves were smacking him, he also got stung on his face by tiny jellyfish. “I’ve never breathed so hard in my life,” Walker exclaimed. “My chest was tight and my shoulders were really sore from the hours of swimming and being bashed around.” In total, this swim took 15 hours and 31 minutes.

11. The Chilly North

Another swim took place in the freezing water of the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, which is famous for being one of the hardest swims in the world. Besides for the icy water, Walker had to face a barricade of lion’s mane jellyfish.

Adam Walker - Shark and Dolphins

He wasn’t prepared for just how big the jelly fish were, but came to learn their might after a few stings. Walker completed the swim in 10 hours and 45 minutes. Despite all these intense swims, his swim in the Cook Strait still stands out as the strangest of them all.

12. The Cook Strait

On April 22, 2014, Adam Walker chose to take on swimming the Cook Strait, notorious for being one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world. Situated between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, the strait connects the Tasman Sea to the South Pacific Ocean.

Adam Walker Swimming in the Cook Strait - Shark and Dolphins

Walker was feeling very nervous the morning of the swim, but he calmed his nerves by listening to motivational speeches on his mp3 player. His trainer Philip Rush seemed a bit anxious too, but they were both determined for Walker to complete the challenge. Just as Walker was about to start, he felt sick again, but jumped in and began gliding through the water. Neither Phil nor Walker were prepared for what was about to happen.

13. Getting Into the Groove

This swim marked the first time Adam Walker wore a GPS tracker, so people were watching his progress. The pressure was on. He was feeling a little uneasy during the first hour, and when he came in to get his first snack, Phil told him to snap out of it.

The Cook Strait - Shark and Dolphins

Walker powered on into the second hour and picked up the momentum, but his legs felt like jelly. He came in for his second drink, and felt like now was the time to push through like he had nothing to lose. Then, in the third hour of the swim, something both frightening and incredible happened.

14. A Fin Appears

About three hours into the swim, Adam Walker was into a steady rhythm and felt like he didn’t need to make a pit stop every hour or so. He didn’t feel sick to his stomach anymore, which was a great help too.

A Fin - Shark and Dolphins

Suddenly, when he looked up to take another stroke of his hand, a fin surged right past him. For a second it was right in front of him and then suddenly underneath the water. Was there a creature encircling him now?

15. Dolphins And Something Else

Within seconds of spotting the fin, Adam Walker noticed that he was surrounded by a school of dolphins. He was so overwhelmed with joy to be joined by these friendly creatures on his swim. However he was about to discover the eerie reason they were there.

A Pod of Dolphins - Shark and Dolphins

Walker could hardly believe what was happening, but after 15 minutes he knew he needed to just get his head back into the water and power on. And it was precisely in that moment that he noticed something large lurking stealthily underneath him.

16. Whatever You Do, Don’t Look Down

The large creature swimming beneath Adam Walker in the deep waters was none other than a shark! While he was well aware that the probability of swimming near sharks was extremely high, he definitely wasn’t prepared for one to sneak up on him like that.

Shark - Shark and Dolphins

After Walker spotted the shark he obviously didn’t feel very comfortable anymore. For his own safety, he tried to stay as calm as possible and to think on how best to react. Even more, he felt somewhat protected by the dolphins. Would this really be enough?

17. What Now?

Adam Walker knew that if he told Phil about the shark, he’d have to get back onto the boat and waste his energy. What stopped him even more from mentioning the shark was that it’d mean game over for his swim challenge.

Adam Walker Swimming - Shark and Dolphins

The last thing Walker wanted was to stop swimming after the months of serious training to get this moment. Besides, he was quite enjoying the company of the other friendly fins. However, he couldn’t ignore the frightening creature below him.

18. Shark Encounter

This wasn’t the first time Walker encountered sharks, so he knew the best tactic is to pretend it’s not there and to keep his mind set on the ultimate goal. That didn’t stop him from looking down a few times, though.

Adam Walker Swimming - Shark and Dolphins

Walker couldn’t help but look down to see if the shark was still looming beneath him or about to jump out at him. He felt unnerved and exhilarated at the same time because he was swimming with dolphins and a shark.

19. What Lies Beneath

Walker wasn’t sure if the shark left because of the dolphins, as this wasn’t the first time wild dolphins swam around humans when sharks were around. It also made him wonder about what else lurked beneath those waters. He didn’t want these kind of thought to start distracting him, and even Phil was getting agitated.

Depths of the Ocean - Shark and Dolphins

Phil didn’t have any idea about the large shark, but he did think the dolphins were distracting Walter from steaming ahead at full pace to get to the finish line. Phil might have been right, but Walker was thrilled by this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

20. The Coast Is Clear

The dolphins didn’t leave Walker’s side. It was really a surreal moment for him because they provided him with that boost he needed to get through this difficult swim. Shark or no shark, this was one of the happiest moments in his life.

Adam Walker Swimming - Shark and Dolphins

Walker looked down after a while and noticed that the silhouette of the shark had disappeared from underneath him. In fact, the dolphins had accompanied him for an hour until the shark left. He could hardly believe it! Did the shark leave because of the dolphins or would it make another appearance later?

21. What Dreams Are Made Of

The dolphins soldiered on, lingering by Walker’s side for another 30 minutes, but by that stage Walker was totally focused on his swimming getting back into the groove. They had provided him with all the morale he needed to finish.

Adam Walker Swimming - Shark and Dolphins

It was truly a magical sight to see Walker’s long strokes matched by the jumping streamlined figures of the dolphins. They came so close to him that he even felt their tails brush up against him. He wasn’t sure if they were just playing around or actively protecting him from any looming predators.

22. Farewell My Friends

Walker was grateful that the dolphins didn’t desert him. If they hadn’t been around, he would have been forced to exit the water while the shark swam below. It was strange that it followed Walker for at least 30 minutes.

Adam Walker Swimming - Shark and Dolphins

Walker was in it for the long haul, and no shark was going to stop him now. The dolphins went on their way after 90 minutes of escorting Walker when it seemed like he was out of harm’s way. But was he?

23. Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

When the dolphins left, Walker stopped for a drink and some hearty homemade soup made by his girlfriend Gemma Clarke. It certainly made him feel better, but after another hour and a half of swimming he still felt a bit sick.

Powering On - Shark and Dolphins

At five hours in, Phil was getting excited and kept encouraging Walker to push on further and faster. He picked up speed close even as the current was pushing him closer to large rocks. Would Walker finally finish the race without facing any more dangers?

24. What About the Shark?!

Phil, who had mentored Walker before the swim, is a legendary long-distance ocean swimmer himself, hailing from New Zealand. He holds the world record for completing a two and three way swim of the English Channel in the quickest time.

Adam Walker - Shark and Dolphins

He told Walker not to worry about sharks seeing that he crossed Cook Strait eight times himself. After the race Walker did think it was worth mentioning the shark to Phil. However, this wasn’t the first time the British swimmer had a bad run-in with some deadly sea creatures.

25. The Finish Line

After 8 hours and 39 minutes, Walker finally finished his swim of the Cook Strait, despite the strong currents, fatigue, and skipping a few meals. He had conquered the the waters and it turned out to be the best and most exhilarating swim of his life.

The Finish Line - Shark and Dolphins

He got to swim with a school of wild dolphins, and that was the best feeling in the world for him. But if you think this was a dangerously wild experience, you’ll definitely want to hear what Walker experienced during his other long-distance swims. Yes, some of them involve more sharks and a Portuguese man o’ war!

26. Gratitude

After finishing the race, Walker took to Facebook to share his incredible experience. “Yesterday I swam the 6th of the Oceans Seven swims ‘Cook Strait’ in 8 hours and 39 minutes.” He went on to say that he he’d like to believe that the dolphins were “protecting [him] and guiding [him] home.”

Adam Walker - Shark and Dolphins

He exclaimed that it was the most difficult thing he had achieved in his life and that he’ll never forget swimming with the dolphins. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some behind-the-scenes “drama.” It also doesn’t tell the whole story of rolling waves, big currents, and a dream come true of swimming with dolphins for over an hour!

27. Ocean Walker Stroke

After rupturing his tendon during his first long-distance swim, Walker had to come up with a plan if he wanted to continue swimming. His normal stroke was irritating his shoulder and causing further tears to the tendon, but he didn’t want to give up on his beloved sport.

shark and dolphins

This is when he invented the Ocean Walker Stroke technique which uses his core muscles to move him forward. It was this technique which got him through the Strait of Gibraltar, and all the Ocean Sevens swims for that matter. Walker cannot sleep on his left side, but he can certainly swim for several hours straight and break records.

28. A New Business

It’s worth nothing that Walker did all his swims while still holding his national salesman position and funding his own swims. Nowadays, Walker is no longer working as a salesman. He now runs his own business with his girlfriend Gemma, called Ocean Walker Ltd. It specializes in coaching and training swimmers of all ages, both in open waters and swimming pools.

Shark and Dolphins


He teaches his Ocean Walker Stroke technique to people so they don’t have to give up their passion for swimming because of back or shoulder injuries. In fact, this stroke prevents injuries. Walker also runs swim camps, one-on-one sessions, and even online lessons.

29. Motivational Speaking

Not only is Walker an incredible swimmer and mentor, he also loves to talk about his incredible experiences and to encourage people to never give up when obstacles come their way. Motivational speaking makes up an imperative part of his business.

Motivational Speaker - Shark and Dolphins

He loves to tell his stories accompanied by photographs and video footage of his swims and travel experiences. He is also an ambassador for the Royal Life Saving Society UK for water safety and drowning prevention and Zoggs UK, a swimming gear and accessories company.

30. Man vs. Ocean

Walker has two websites: one for his Ocean Walker business and another personal site where he shares news, media posts, blog posts, and personal accounts about all the Oceans Seven swims. He has also penned a book about his journey from salesman to renowned long-ocean swimmer.

Man vs. Ocean - Shark and Dolphins

His book Man vs. Ocean, published in 2016, is about Walker’s record-breaking swimming journey. It details his life story and all the treacherous waters and marine animals he had to face to achieve his dreams. It became a bestselling sports autobiography on Amazon.

31. Not the First Time

Surprisingly, Adam Walker’s experience of being protected by dolphins has happened to others. In fact, stories of dolphins interacting with or protecting humans go back as far as ancient Greece, where there were stories of dolphins guiding sailors to safety.

In more recent times, dolphins have been documented protecting humans and other sea animals, even as big as whales. Read on to hear a few of the incredible stories. You’ll realize just how grateful you ought to be for dolphins afterward!

32. Dolphins Save the Day

It was July 2002 when fisherman Grant Dickson’s trawling boat was overturned off the coast of Queensland, Australia. As a result, he was severely injured and bleeding heavily, continuing to hold onto the remains of the boat for dear life.

dolphin miracle

He noticed a group of sharks had started to follow him closely. “I was worried I was bleeding too much and the blood would attract the shark and that would be it,” Dickson said. “But the dolphins came to my rescue and chased away the shark. They saved my life.”

33. Surf Scare

In August 2007, a 24-year-old man named Todd Endris was out surfing in Monterey, California, when a 15-foot-long great white shark bit him twice. He was severely injured and lost half his blood, practically on the brink of death. Suddenly, a group of 15 bottlenose dolphins came to his rescue.

“The dolphins were going absolutely crazy and really saved my life,” he said in an interview with The Discovery Channel following the ordeal. “I feel like they were jumping over the top of me and swarming around me. They kind of created a wall between me and the shark.” He managed to survive after six months of recovery and went on to advocate for animal protection.

34. Lucky Distraction

Another frightening incident occurred in 2004 in New Zealand. A young woman and several lifeguards were out at sea doing a training exercise when a great white shark that was about 3 meters (9.8 feet) long started swimming around them.



Out of nowhere appeared a few dolphins swimming together. They started creating a distraction for the shark by creating tons of noise and waving their tails around like crazy. It seems to have worked because the shark quickly swam away and left the people alone.

35. Red Sea Rescue

The next dolphin rescue occurred in 1996 in the Red Sea in Eilat, Israel. During a boat tour with tourists to watch dolphins, three of them were allowed to go swimming in the waters. While two of them returned to the ship, the third person, a British tourist, decided to linger.

Wikimedia Commons/Dolphin Reef in Eilat

While enjoying the water, a shark took a bite out of him. To make it worse, more sharks were coming toward him. Amid the chaos, three dolphins surrounded the man and began causing a ruckus. They began jumping in the water frantically, hitting the water with their flippers and tails until the sharks were scared off for good.

36. Save the Whales

Humans aren’t the only ones that dolphins help. Dolphins rescued a group of whales at Tokerau Beach in New Zealand in 1983. It happened after the pod of 80 pilot whales found themselves in shallow water during a huge tide and couldn’t get back into the deeper waters.

People at the beach attempted to guide them back, sponging their skin in the meantime. However, the whales were disorientated. That’s when the rescue dolphins swooped in. According to reports, the pod of dolphins put themselves at risk to swim in to the shallow waters in order to “herd” the whales back out to sea. The dolphins’ efforts managed to save 76 of the whales that day.

37. Moko to the Rescue!

A similar incident happened with a special dolphin in New Zealand named Moko, who is known for loving to play with human beach goers. One day in 2008, however, Moko turned his sights on some other species and left everyone stunned.

National Geographic

Rescue workers had spent almost two hours trying to redirect a pygmy sperm whale and her calf back out to sea, but they kept getting stranded on a sandbar a few miles away from the shore. Moko then took over, guiding the whales about 200 yards until the reached an opening in the sandbar and could re-enter the rest of the sea.

38. Stranded At Sea

Back in the Red Sea, this time in Egyptian waters, dolphins came to the rescue once again for a group of scuba divers. Twelve scuba divers were swept away while exploring and were lost for over 13 hours. Rescue planes and boats kept failing to spot them and they feared they would soon die.

Finally, a boat spotted them but those aboard found the lost divers in the most interesting way. “One of the most amazing things was, after we were rescued, the guys on the boat said there were dolphins jumping across the prow in the direction we were actually in,” recalled Richard Hallam, one of the divers, after they were rescued.

39. Suicide Prevention

Could a dolphin prevent suicide? According to president of the Ocean Conservation Society Maddalena Bearzi, yes! In one of her accounts published by National Geographic, she recalled how it all happened while her team was trailing a pod of bottlenose dolphins. Suddenly broke off from the rest of the group and sped away.

The dolphins and researchers followed the one dolphin for 3 miles until they found the dolphins surrounding an 18-year-old woman. She had been in the water for a long time, suffering from hypothermia and was found with a suicide note. They rescued her immediately and she ended up making a full recovery.

40. Why Do Dolphins Save Others?

There are a number of theories as to why dolphins seem to be so altruistic and loving toward other species. Some researchers say that dolphins do this because they expect a reward of food afterward, such as when people are rescued by a fishing boat.

The Independent

Others say that due to their excellent echolocation skills, they are able to hear the heartbeats of their fellow mammals and can therefore detect when they are in distress. They exhibit this same behavior toward their own kind as well.

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Sources: Daily Mail, Daily Star, Global News, BBC

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