A Decade of Dreams Realized: Mark Sowerby Completes the Oceans Seven

A Decade of Dreams Realized: Mark Sowerby Completes the Oceans Seven

Mark Sowerby from the Gold Coast of Australia has achieved the Oceans Seven. With a 10 hour and 6 minute crossing of the Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan, he completed a nine-year-long quest. Sowerby is now the 29th person in history to complete the Oceans Seven.

Mark’s journey began in August 2015 with a 14-hour, 24-minute swim across the English Channel. Since then, he has crossed the world’s most challenging bodies of water:

  • English Channel: 14 hours 24 minutes, Age 44, 8 August 2015
  • Molokai Channel: 14 hours 23 minutes, Age 51, 6 April 2022
  • Catalina Channel: 10 hours 43 minutes, Age 51, 4 October 2022
  • Strait of Gibraltar: 3 hours 24 minutes, Age 51, 24 April 2023
  • North Channel: 12 hours 12 minutes, Age 52, 7 September 2023
  • Cook Strait: 8 hours 3 minutes, Age 52, 31 January 2024
  • Tsugaru Strait: 10 hours 6 minutes, Age 52, 29 June 2024

Watch highlight reel here

Heidi Sowerby, Mark’s wife, a sport’s physiotherapist and triathlete, truly captures the essence of Mark’s Oceans Seven quest on her Instagram. So let’s travel through Mark’s incredible journey through her eyes.

Tsugaru Strait

“His Oceans Seven journey was complete. It was a little dicey at times, but mission accomplished. To say I am proud of this human is an understatement. A 10-year journey to complete the swimming of the Oceans 7, seven marathon swims across the world was realized yesterday. The years of training peaks entries, of chats with coach, of hours in the pool, mountains of stretching, conditioning, sports nutrition and second breakfasts. Years of refining the process. Adventures with teams traveling to far-flung places to support swims in channels so challenging for their distances, temperatures, wildlife and unknowns. Years of people engaging in conversations of support and disbelief at the challenge. Years of growing a psychology, the strengthening of resolve. Years to come to one day—yesterday. The day when it all came together. The day Mark crossed the Tsugaru Strait, Japan in a time of 10 hours 6 minutes.”

There were hours of uncertainty, hours of stoic determination, grit, and resolve. The currents, the temperature drop of 5 degrees in one short half hour to 14.5 degrees, and the hours of being pushed around by a wild stretch of water. But he never gave in or entertained the possibility of quitting—and then one final moment of a hand hitting a barnacled wall of Hokkaido and the goal of being an Oceans Seven finisher was finally realized. The 29th human ever to have completed this challenge—the 3rd swimmer ever to have finished on the first attempt. Mark Sowerby, you fought this battle with absolute resolve and drive. I think you can now call yourself a ‘good swimmer.'”

Cook Strait

“Mark successfully completed the swim from the north to South Island of New Zealand aka the Cook Strait. It’s weird but the day is just another day when you aren’t on the boat witnessing the slog of an eight hour swim in 13-16 degrees. Hence my complacency in celebrating another epic marathon swim in the manner it truly deserves. It was almost easy after five epic swims to blindly believe that the outcome was certain. But when you have to swim in the dark, through kelp into sharky waters finishing is anything but certain.”

North Channel

“North channel (Northern Ireland to Scotland) swim successfully completed! 12 hours 12 mins. There is so much to say but so little that can explain the brutality of the North Channel as a swim destination. For the swimmer and even the team. 21 miles of cold, wild and jelly-infested water. A place where the cold seeps into you as an unwelcome visitor, the weather teases you with filtered sunshine only to turn around and slap you with chop and cold winds the next minute and the distant shoreline teases you with promise and hope…. All while the ruthless cold is waiting to claim it’s next victim. I honestly do not know how he got through this – but I believe it’s a combination of great coaching, fanatical prep, stubbornness, stupidity and a psychology that goes to the deep dark places with strategy and ridiculous resolve.”

Strait of Gibraltar

“Big congratulations to hubby who has successfully swim the Gibraltar Strait last night Aussie time. A lot of kms of black line fever preceded this channel crossing and it paid off- Europe to Africa, 15 degrees, 3 hrs 24 mins.”

Catalina Channel

“It’s been a wonderful experience in Southern California. We met some great people and happily managed to get the swim done which is never a given. There really is nowhere to hide out there when things don’t go according to plan and it was somewhat rewarding to still find a way to the finish line.”

Molokai Channel

“Could not be more proud of the amazing human I get to share life with. Over the past week I have been designated crew for his next big challenge – the Molakai Channel, 45+ km of swimming between Molakai and Ohau. Not just swimming but swimming with the threat of sharks and box jellyfish in very deep water. And the final blow, swimming overnight with only a couple of red headlamps to indicate where you are in the vast choppy ocean. Truly chilling experience even as a spectator. After starting at 520pm yesterday, I’m stoked to report he made it to a beach in Ohau this morning with a successful swim of 14 hrs 23.”

English Channel

And where it all started where Mark was swimming for a cause. He raised almost $1,200,000 for Starlight Children’s Foundation. The foundation transforms the hospital experience for seriously ill children and their families.

From the fundraising page:

“Whilst I can’t speak for Mark, from an observer’s perspective it was a completely insane day. Quite frankly, the ballsiest thing I have ever witnessed. After 13 and1/2 hours in the water, battling currents, jellyfish and frigid cold, we literally had to drive him to sprint for the last 34 minutes…think about that…and when they bought him back to the boat he was totally and utterly destroyed. Needless to say, Mark was not in a good way when he came onto the boat, particularly as he started to cool down. His brother Dave was pretty much in shock, there were no high fives, we just had to get him warm and keep him upright (albeit in a sitting position). 

Overall, the day was both better and worse than any grand final any of us had been involved in….and the last 30 minutes ignited a really strange frightening feeling of what if this actually goes too far. This was a whole new level. To not make it was just not an option, but for him to push himself as far as he had to and for us to actively and aggressively encourage him into and back out of the abyss is something none of us will never forget. From a “support crew perspective”, we all loved the victory, but none of us have the desire to experience it again.

At the end though, when he touched the French shore-line it was one of the sweetest victories I have ever been a part of, and I wouldn’t have missed it for quids.”

Congratulations to Mark Sowerby on this monumental achievement!

Main photo: Tsugaru Strait finish