A MARATHON swimmer originally from West Kilbride is taking on one of the world’s toughest sporting challenges in a bid to raise money for and awareness of mental health research.

Andy Donaldson, who grew up in the village and was a champion swimmer for North Ayrshire Swimming Club, has since moved to Australia and is attempting to complete the Oceans Seven - a collection of the most difficult channel swims on Earth.

Equating to almost 200km of swimming, the challenge is not for the faint-hearted - and Andy has set himself the ambitious goal of becoming the first person to finish all seven swims within a year.

The 31-year-old has already ticked one - the 33km English Channel swim from England to France - off the list so far, having earned a new British record by reaching the end of the crossing in just eight hours over the weekend.

The Strait of Gibraltar is up next, with each of the swims presenting their own unique challenges as Andy faces large swells, cold water, complex currents, unpredictable weather and possible encounters with aggressive marine life.

He is determined to give his all for what he calls a very personal cause, raising cash for an Oz-based charity.

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Andy said: “I’ve known many good people who have struggled with their mental health, with my greatest hero growing up, my grandfather, being one of them. And like many, I’ve lost friends to suicide.

“During 2019, I experienced my own struggles with depression. I was burnt out, and felt a bit lost in life. Fortunately, I received some great support from those around me, and I was encouraged back into the water where I discovered community, along with tools to help manage and improve my mental wellbeing.

“Through this journey, I rediscovered my passion for swimming, and it inspired me to try to use my skills to help others. I started doing swims to raise money for charity, and this ultimately led me to the Oceans Seven and the Black Dog Institute.

“I hope to use this challenge as a vehicle for good, raising funds and awareness towards their amazing work.”

Follow Andy’s journey via his Facebook and Instagram pages, and donate here.