Meet the ‘merman’ who swam 25km to Dubai Water Canal


Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Dubai - The 30-year-old Dubai resident completed the distance in exactly five hours and 55 minutes.

by Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Fri 23 Oct 2020, 9:59 PM

Egyptian expat Shehab Allam has already won countless swimming championships, but he wanted to do something ‘different’. So, wearing his monofin, he swam 25km from Al Seef to Dubai Water Canal, hoping to smash a world record.

The 30-year-old Dubai resident completed the distance in exactly five hours and 55 minutes, and he believes he has successfully broken the current world record for long-distance swimming with a fibre glass monofin.

Speaking to Khaleej Times after the recent achievement, Allam said: “I wanted to do something different… something that would be in the history books. I am proud of what I did in Dubai. The entire swim was against the current.

“Since the swim was against the current, I was losing a lot of energy. Your muscles start to get to its maximum and you have to push harder.”

Global champ

Allam, a professional long-distance swimming champion, has always loved being in the water.

“I had my first tryst with a swimming pool at age three. I have been a professional classic swimmer since the age of 10, and started monofin swimming at age 12,” he said. With his passion for the sport and determination, he went on to win several championship titles.

He topped the Arab Championship from 2006 to 2008 in several countries including Jordan, Tunisia, Syria, and Egypt and won the first place at the World Championship in Colombia in 2008.

Now, he shares his expertise and has a teaching-level certification in freediving, fitness, and first aid. He currently works as a swimming and fitness instructor in the UAE.

Training for the feat

Allam called his latest feat in Dubai one of his biggest challenges. He trained regularly for two and a half months to prepare for it.

“I was training six days a week in the gym, pool, and the open sea. I was working at the same time. I would pick different beaches in Dubai for my practice,” he said.

Allam said it helped that all of Dubai’s beaches are beautiful. “There is a beach near you, wherever you live,” he added. With the challenge done, he now hopes to contribute to the UAE’s sports culture as an athlete and organiser.

What is monofin swimming?

Monofins look like a ‘mermaid’s tail’ and swimming with them is considered a niche sport. A monofin is a type of swimfin typically used in underwater sports such as finswimming, free-diving and underwater orienteering.

It consists of a single or linked surface attached to both of the diver’s feet. The diver’s appearance is then reminiscent of a mermaid or merman. A monofin swimmer keeps his or her legs and arms locked and undulates the body from the shoulders to the hips to propel themselves forward.

Dhanusha Gokulan
Dhanusha Gokulan

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