ABOUT ANDREW ‘COTTY’ COTTON
Andrew Cotton is best known for surfing some the world’s largest and most dangerous waves – swapping 100ft waves for ice cold lakes, Andrew pushed himself to his limits to complete the very first “Three Lakes Challenge”.
Winter is all about the pursuit of big waves, splitting my time between West Ireland and Nazare in Portugal. Over the last 15 years I’ve travelled the world chasing storms, driven to find and conquer waves that no one else has been able to.
2022 felt like a good time to take on a new adventure, whilst continuing training during the off-season. I set myself the challenge to hike to and swim (without a wetsuit) in the three highest lakes in the UK.
The weather in spring in the UK is hard to predict, sun one minute, wind, rain and hail the next. One thing I could be sure of was the water temperature – which barely reaches above 0°c. Outdoor swimmers refer to these temperatures as ‘Baltic’. On entering the water, breathing can feel difficult, and the water burns the skin, and time in the water should be limited to no more than a few minutes. Due to this, time spent swimming in each lake could not be calculated until I had checked the the temperature, about to get in – making the climb to each swim even more daunting.
The challenge took place over in a short window of three consecutive days across three different countries. Travelling from North Devon to the Lake District to swim in the 80ft deep lake, ‘Red Tarn’. Followed by Loch Etchachan in the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands – renowned for holding ice for 7 months of the year. A total of 1256 miles on the road, finishing up at Llyn Llyffant in Snowdonia National Park in Wales.
Each swim was a step out of my comfort zone – even when I am surfing the biggest waves in the most dangerous swells, I feel confident in the ocean. These environments were new and unforgiving and not just in the water – walking more than 40 miles over three days to reach each lake in ever changing weather was relentless and dangerous.