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Tim Kevan's Scribblings from the Surf in Braunton, North Devon

PUBLISHED: 16:52 07 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:22 20 February 2013

Tim Kevan's Scribblings from the Surf in Braunton, North Devon

Tim Kevan's Scribblings from the Surf in Braunton, North Devon

Barrister and writer Tim Kevan from braunton in North Devon meets an Everest mountaineer and the leader of the Lundy swim challenge

Tim Kevan's Scribblings from the Surf, Braunton, North Devon


Barrister and writer Tim Kevan from braunton in North Devon meets an Everest mountaineer and the leader of the Lundy swim challenge


With its surfing beaches and rugged cliffs, and the Exmoor hills behind, it is perhaps no surprise that North Devon attracts more than its fair share of adventurers. Two such are Dr Rob Casserley, who is about to row the Atlantic and then climb Everest for a sixth time, and Paul Irwin, who led the first swim from Lundy Island to Woolacombe. What they both have in common, beyond stretching the limits of their own endurance, is a desire to help the wider community through raising money and awareness of particular charities.


The Everest Summiteer
If youd told Rob Casserley ten years ago, when he was a medical student in Newcastle, that by now he would have summited Everest five times, he would have responded with disbelief. He undoubtedly had an aptitude for sport, having played rugby to county level at school. He had also climbed the trekking peak of Mount Kenya during a gap year with the army. But it wasnt until his elective as a medical student in Bolivia and Peru that he climbed his first serious mountain, Huayna Potosi, at over 6,000 metres. Kilimanjaro followed, after which, in 2002-3, he decided to take a climbing sabbatical during which he climbed Europes highest, Mount Elbrus, and the worlds sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu. Then, at the end of the sabbatical he reached the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the 64th British summiteer.
Since then he has been on numerous expeditions but is best known for having summited Everest a further four times, most notably in spring 2007, when he became one of only three westerners ever to achieve two summits in one climbing season. He did it in the space of a week, which was memorably filmed for the TV programme Everest ER.
In 2008, he worked as the official cameraman and personal physician to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on his Everest attempt, and in the process helped to raise 2.5 million for Marie Curie Cancer Care. This led the way for another great charity adventure, Ocean 2 Summit, which will start on 6 December. Rob and fellow North Devon medic Stuart Burbridge will set off from La Gomera in Gran Canaria in an attempt to row the 2,700 miles across the Atlantic to Antigua. This will involve some two months of a gruelling rotation system in which they will alternate two-hour rowing shifts and live off rehydrated army-style ration packs. This will be followed in the spring of 2010 by a joint attempt on the summit of Mount Everest. Once again they will be harnessing the goodwill and publicity which such an extreme adventure brings, in order to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. As their fundraising website puts it, with characteristic modesty, they are simply two doctors from North Devon who have a passion about putting as much as possible into the community, whilst putting our bodies and minds through some of the toughest challenges around.


The Lundy Swimmer
Much closer to home but no less inspiring are the efforts of Paul Irwin and his fellow participants in the inaugural Lundy Swim Challenge, which was completed in August, and raised thousands of pounds for the Childrens Hospice South West. In fact, after fellow team member Dr Bruce Hughes, GP to the Hospice, came up with the idea many people thought they were mad. I mean, four people swimming around 20 miles in a stretch of sea which has some of the biggest tides and worst currents in the world. But, for Braunton resident Paul, it was the challenge he was looking for. Hed already completed triathlons at sprint, Olympic and half ironman levels and raised money for charities along the way. But above all he is someone who dreams of adventure, of pushing forward the frontiers, and suddenly here was an opportunity to complete a first on his own doorstep. No one had ever swum from Lundy to Woolacombe, and so he jumped at the opportunity to lead the team. Along with Bruce he recruited Simon Mathers, a PE teacher at Kingsley School in Bideford, Jon Parker and John Jameson, a reserve swimmer and swim tactician.
Despite the difficulties involved, they somehow managed to convince key sponsors such as Saltrock, Sailfish Wetsuits and Gatorade that it was possible and the show was on the road. Then, besides the arduous training, they needed to recruit not only a support crew but a small flotilla of boats as well. This was where the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place, when Bristol Channel Charters, Rudi Lancaster and the indomitable Ilfracombe Yacht Club stepped up to the mark.
After that it was all down to the weather. When the swimmers set off for Lundy the conditions were sufficiently rough to bring down a number of the support crew with sea sickness. Oh, and there was just the small issue of a bunch of Portuguese Men oWar being washed up at Combe Martin on the same day. But hey, nothing was going to stop these North Devon pioneers by this point, and despite the fact that the seas remained rough for the swim the next day, the team made it through to Woolacombe in just over seven hours.
As for whats next, they not only intend to repeat the event and open it up to more teams next year but they also have another North Devon first planned, which will be open to even more members of the public another crazy idea set to inspire the region and one which they intend to make public when the time is right. Now I admit that Ive already been told but if I were to divulge it now it would spoil the fun.
One thing of which we can all be sure is that in Rob, Stuart, Paul, and the rest of the Lundy swim team, the spirit of George Mallory and the romance of adventure is not only alive and well but thriving in North Devon.


To support Robs and Stuarts fundraising, visit www.ocean2summit.com, and to support the Lundy swim teams efforts and for more information about next years events, visit www.justgiving.com/lundyswim.


Tim Kevan is the author of the comic novel BabyBarista and the Art of War (Bloomsbury) and the co-author (with Dr Michelle Tempest) of Why Lawyers Should Surf. www.timkevan.com.


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