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Paul has been a WWF Greece major donor since October 2013. His love of the Greek seas and his strong family ties to Andros island gave him the idea for a fundraising Swimathon which took place in October. Inspired by the pioneer swimmer Lewis Pugh, who he met and swam with during the summer, Paul proposed to raise money for WWF by swimming 15km with his partner Nathalie and by persuading their friends and contacts to sponsor them with €500 per km. Another 30 swimmers joined Paul and Nathalie for the event in the bay of Porto Rafti.
What inspired you to swim 15km (300 Olympic-sized swimming pools!) for WWF? 

I wanted to help WWF with the CYCLADES LIFE project and raise as much money as possible, with an activity that would also be a personal challenge for myself, and convince other people to join me on my crazy journey. As the CYCLADES LIFE project is marine based in an area that is very close to my heart, I instantly thought that my fundraising idea had to be a swimming challenge. Originally my challenge was going to be to swim to Gyaros from Athens...that was until I realised it was more than 60km! It didn't look that far on the map! So then I reduced the distance to 25km…until my first week of training in June when it was immediately clear that 25km was also way too far. So the final 15km was fixed as it is more than a marathon, but a distance I still thought I could make. It also needed to be far enough that most people would think I was crazy and thus be enticed to donate more money to the great cause.

How hard was it to train and eventually swim 15km in the open sea? 

Up until the 15km swim on 11th October I managed to train a total of just over 100km in three months. I think the hardest part was that I left myself such a short time to train. I really should have had at least 6 months to train properly. Given the limited time, the main aim was to just spend as much time in the water as possible, no other training, just swimming and mostly in the open sea.

I also had the amazing opportunity to meet and swim with Lewis Pugh who gave me some great tips. One of the best was something like "the more you hurt in your training, the less you hurt on the day". I then added the mantra "failure is not an option" so with those two phrases in my head, I set about being very diligent with the training schedule. All of this in the end meant that although the weather was far windier and rough than I would have liked, the 15km was actually much easier than I had feared. However, I am sure that all of the support from the beach and boats and kayaks played a huge part in keeping me going.

You have managed to raise more than €80,000, fully covering the remaining WWF contribution toward the CYCLADES LIFE project. What is your secret?

I think the secret is first to find a cause that is worth it. With that inspiration it is easier to convince others to think the way you do about it. You then have to choose a challenge that is outside your comfort zone. Not something so far out that you are doomed to failure, but something that shows that you will really put yourself through a challenge so that people are more likely to support you with larger donations. Last, and most importantly in my case was to try to involve as many other people as possible to try to create a kind of donation tree. I might have come up with the idea and laid the roots, but then in the end the other 30 participants made up the trunk and branches of the tree, all with their own swimming and sponsorship challenge. I found a good way of incorporating others into my challenge which enabled us to access more avenues for sponsorship while providing a challenge to those that wanted to take part in the swim.
Swimathon for the CYCLADES LIFE project.

© V.Kokkinidis / WWF Greece

"For all of the WWF Greece staff who participated in and supported the initiative, it was a unique and humbling experience to witness what a single person’s commitment can do to support our work."
Dr. Spyros Kotomatas CYCLADES LIFE project leader

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