Swimmer circled by sharks off Branksome beach

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AN ENVIRONMENTAL campaigner was circled by around 50 sharks off Branksome beach during a world record practice swim.

Oly Rush, who aims to swim around the Isle of Wight and break the world record, was doing his first night practise when he kept being buffeted and nibbled by mysterious creatures.

When his support kayaker Ashley McPherson shone his torch on the water, they were amazed to see the eyes of about 50 sharks glaring back at them.

Oly, 36, quickly pulled out his phone and captured images of the smooth hound sharks circling him.

He was swimming off Branksome beach in Poole, approximately 75 yards from the shore when the encounter occurred.

Oly, from Upton, said: “I hadn’t done any night swimming before this challenge and this was my first practise in the dark.

“Before we set off I had joked about being attacked by sharks and we were laughing about it.

“Then, during the swim, I started getting bumped and things were nibbling my hands and feet – the parts which weren’t covered by my wetsuit.

“It was pretty unnerving at first but when I realised what it was I just enjoyed the experience which was amazing. It was fantastic to see so many sharks in the wild just behaving naturally.

“After about 15 minutes I swam on and left them to it. I think they might have been attracted to a flashing light in my tow float that I swim with."

Oly Rush

Oly added that the nibbles didn’t hurt because smooth hound sharks don’t have teeth.

Most of the creatures were about four feet long and Oly said that he felt “very privileged” to have seen them.

He added: “The experience means I won’t worry if they approach me when I’m doing my swim around the Isle of Wight at the end of the month.”

Plasterer Oly is attempting the world record for the quickest swim around the Isle of Wight to raise awareness about plastic pollution and raise money for anti-pollution charities.

Only four other swimmers have successfully circumnavigated the island, with the quickest setting a record of 26-hours.

It is equivalent to crossing the English Channel three times.

The attempt will take place at the end of the month when conditions are right.

To support Oly on his adventure, visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/plasticfight?utm_term=pVa2QggAp