Hall of Fame for long-haul larrikin

Justin FrisGeraldton Guardian

Phillip Martin was inducted into the Rottnest Channel Swim Association’s hall of fame this month in Perth.

A keen endurance swimmer and former international water polo player from the UK, Martin is the only solo swimmer ever to have completed the 19.7km event swimming only butterfly — a feat he achieved in 2001.

And there is a funny story about how it came about.

“I didn’t really have a love of butterfly,” he said. “It just sort of became a bet with a mate. I was a good swimmer and an international water polo player and I was heavily involved with Swanbourne Surf Life Saving Club at the time, which was a bit of a party club.

“I was convincing a mate of mine to do the swim and we used to swim butterfly in races against each other every Sunday.

“I said it was easy and I could do it butterfly — so he said, ‘I bet you a keg of Kilkenny you can’t’, and so that is how it all started really.”

With an excellent support crew behind him, Martin completed the swim and even managed to fulfil the second component of the bet with his mate at the halfway point.

“Part of this particular swim, part of the bet was to drink a pint of Kilkenny and eat a Mrs Mac’s curry pie past halfway.

“So that made me feel a bit average for the next half and hour or so while I digested it, but then the carbs kicked in and gave me a bit of a boost towards the end.”

The toll from such an event failed to deter Martin’s resolve from competing in future years, but he reverted to a team of four.

He can still remember leaving the water after the 2001 swim.

“All of my support crew went and partied but I was in a bit of agony really,” he said. “My under arms were really sore and I lost all of the skin under my armpits and my armpit hair was all gone.”

Martin was deeply humbled with his recognition and was delighted to share the moment with his family.

“It was really nice to share it with my son and daughter,” he said. “They are nine and 10 years old so it is nice for them to see me get recognised for something I did 17 years ago.”

A member of the B52’s Relics men’s B-Grade team in the Geraldton Water Polo Association, Martin has put the swim on hold this year to support his teammates in the finals series.

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