ENRIQUE Flores is off to Jersey next month but this will be no holiday for the long-distance swimmer and dedicated environmentalist.
A ‘tour’ of the island is on Enrique’s itinerary. But he will not be taking in the sights of Mount Orgueil castle, the World War II tunnels or even a coach tour dedicated to fictional detective Bergerac.
The recently elected Shaw and Crompton Parish councillor will instead navigate the largest of the Channel Island’s coastline by swimming 22 miles in total.
He will do so only in his trunks – no wet suit for the 49-year-old Scottish Power civil engineer.
Enrique warmed up for his marathon effort in aid of a charity that has its origins in his native Mexico with a recent one-mile crossing of the River Mersey in Liverpool.
Community and Biodiversity (COBI in Spanish) is a civil society organisation founded in 1999 with the goal of saving marine ecosystems deteriorating due to unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.
Enrique hopes his Jersey swim on July 2 – weather permitting – will raise £1,000 for COBI. But he is equally passionate about educating and cleaning up the community he now proudly calls home.
“The appeal of swimming in the English Channel is irresistible,” laughs Shaw-based Enrique, who completed the Dover-Calais crossing in 2007 in 13 hours 20 minutes.
“Cold water, unpredictable weather, white horses, the odd seal, plenty of jelly fish, maritime traffic, plastic bottles, bags and wrappers…
“Hang on. That plastic was never in the allure of ocean swimming. Who threw it all in the sea?
“We need to act now to stop this unhealthy relation we have with single use plastic. We need to re-educate ourselves. Start simple.
“Do what you can but commit to it. Next time you go out for a takeaway meal take your own tubs and bags, reject brand new, single-use plastic.
“If the vendor says ‘can’t do’ then walk away. That will educate them.”
Enrique, who moved to the UK in 1995, describes his Jersey swim as “a formidable challenge.
“The tides are clockwise and anti-clockwise, not left to right, right to left.
“So our lives are in the hands of the skipper who must decide when is the right time to take us out in his boat so the tides work in our favour.
“Unlike a marathon on land this is more like an expedition. You go to climb Everest prepared with everything you need but if the weather says ‘no’ it means ‘no.’
However, Enrique is better equipped than most to take on the swim. He swam at an elite level to challenge for selection to the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games for his native Mexico.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to fulfil my dream but I did swim in a good number of international championships and that’s something I will always be proud of.”
Enrique is a former winner of the Mersey crossing and covered the distance from South Ferry basin to Monks Ferry slipway this time in 25 minutes.
“It was much tougher than in the past when it was sunny with not a lot of wind,” he told the Correspondent.
“This time it was very windy and the wind kept the temperatures down so it was very cold. It was very choppy too so I swallowed a lot of water.
“I don’t wear wetsuits because I am faithful to the rules of the Channel Swimming Association. That’s part of the charm and challenge.
“Wetsuits give you buoyancy and thermal insulation so they are an aid.”
Back on dry land Enrique, one of seven councillors co-opted on to the Parish Council last month, is excited by the prospect of his new political career.
“I got involved after approaching the local authority and our MP (Debbie Abrahams) to challenge them because I am seeing plastic everywhere.
“I came to realise the authorities are doing a lot.
“But sadly there are those who are not as careful, disciplined and as considerate.
“It only needs to be a small proportion but a small proportion of a lot of people means a lot of plastic.
“So, I am taking it personally now because this plastic finds its way into the open water where I love to swim.
“And I decided I could be more effective to my local community by making a noise from the inside than writing blogs or complaining on Facebook.
“I am very passionate about the possibility of regulating the way we use disposable plastics. But do something so we can build up a target to eliminate disposable plastic from our fast food.
“That is something that is local that we can do. I want to get the message across to my neighbours and to the local authorities that our residents believe it can be done.”
• To support Enrique’s swim visit his JustGiving page https://tinyurl.com/y67nf66a