Secret of English Channel training

Paul Hoffman trains at Dandenong Oasis and NPAC. 116438 Picture: ROB CAREW


NOBLE Park Aquatic Centre is “the best kept secret in Melbourne”.
Paul Hoffman is using the pool and Dandenong Oasis for training to prepare for a swim across the English Channel and couldn’t speak of it more highly.
“I’ve gone there to do a 10-kilometre pool session and had the whole pool to myself,” he said.
“It’s the most under-used pool in Melbourne.”
Long-distance swimmer Tammy van Wisse, who’s swum one and a half times around the world, also gave NPAC the tick of approval.
She regularly trains there alongside Mr Hoffman and his coach – her brother John van Wisse.
Four hours of vomiting ended Mr Hoffman’s previous attempt to swim across the English Channel in July 2012.
Next month the Selby man will do it all again, hoping for a happier ending.
“It was a bucket list sort of thing I wanted to do and didn’t get there last time,” he said.
He doesn’t remember being pulled from the water, eight hours and 30 kilometres after setting off from Dover, England, for France.
“It didn’t end well. I was pretty sick,” he said.
But the swim raised thousands of dollars for StarBright – a learning exchange program supporting AIDS and HIV-affected orphans in Cape Town’s slums and shanty towns.
He’s hoping this attempt will again drum up donations for the charity.
“That’s a reward in itself,” he said.
It took Mr Hoffman a few months to start enjoying swimming again, but he has since taken on open water swims including The Bloody Big Swim from Frankston to Mornington, a Rye to Portsea swim with Iceberger group Black Ice, and the Rottnest Channel Swim.
He’s stepping up his training and will fly out on 24 July for his swim window, from 28 July to 2 August.
The swim from England to France is 34 kilometres in a straight line.
“The challenge you have is the current is pushing you sideways,” he said.
This could push the swim out to 50km.
Mr Hoffman is only allowed to wear goggles, a cap, and speedos and isn’t allowed to touch his support boat.
Crew members will throw out containers filled with food and drinks, attached to a rope.
The Rhodesian-born father of two had been dreaming about the challenge since he was 14 years old.
When he volunteered as a surf lifeguard at Sunrise beach in Cape Town, South Africa, legendary open water swimmer Lewis Pugh assessed his qualifying swim and told him about his tilt at the channel swim. The seed was planted.
So two years ago Mr Hoffman decided his 40th birthday would be a great time to tackle it.
He contacted coach Mr van Wisse and has been training in pools and open water across Melbourne ever since, his family his biggest supporters.
“I don’t think I’ll get a third chance, though!” he said.
“I was pretty confident last time. I was pretty angry about how it ended.
“I’m very confident that I’ll get it right this time.”
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