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Delmont swimmer to attempt New Zealand passage in quest to complete Ocean's Seven Challenge

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:03 a.m.
Marathon swimmer Darren Miller soaks in a tub of ice water on the back porch of his Delmont home on March 7, 2013. Miller stays in the freezing water for 15 minutes at a time as part of his training. Miller said it's not so much about aclimating to the cold but preparing himself mentally to withstand the physical challenge of long-distance swimming. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Marathon swimmer Darren Miller of Delmont uses his website, darren-miller.com, to allow viewers to follow his swimming feats and to make donations to his charity, Team Forever, to benefit UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
A framed map at Darren Miller's Delmont homem shows his path across the Strait of Gibraltar, one of the shorter swims he has completed. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Marathon swimmer Darren Miller calmly hashes out the challenging details of his upcoming swim in New Zealand, including the possibility that he'll be just arm-strokes away from a Great White shark.

But that doesn't rattle the ultra-distance swimmer. Last summer, he successfully swam the Tsugaru Channel in Japan, where snakes, squids and sharks are common.

Miller, 29, of Delmont, will attempt the sixth of seven swims as he races to become the first American to complete the Ocean's Seven Challenge. Next week, he will swim the 16-nautical-mile Cook Strait, between the north and south islands of New Zealand.

“This one is dangerous,” he said. “There's going to be a 40-foot luxury yacht ahead of us looking out for debris in the water, rough water and keeping an eye out for the critters of the sea.”

In the Cook Strait, that means sharks, marlin, swordfish, dolphins and whales.

It's the only swim in the challenge that allows participants to exit the water for 10 minutes if a Great White Shark is spotted, because there is a significant population there, he said.

Miller will need to overcome the water's choppy waves and cold temperature — about 60 degrees. He can compete only in a Speedo, swimming cap and goggles.

“The main challenge that I face with these swims is simply the fact of overcoming cold water,” he said. “Growing up in Pittsburgh, I trained in flat water. It does not replicate the environment that I have to swim.”

A senior relationship manager at PNC Bank in Murrysville, Miller trains mostly at Keystone Lake in Derry Township and in a tub of cold water outside his home.

This swim could take from eight to 12 hours, depending on water conditions, he said. He completed the other swims alone, but a friend from Colorado will join him on this one.

Miller hopes to complete the Ocean's Seven challenge in July, when he will swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, which is considered to be the most difficult, he said.

The Ocean's Seven challenge consists of swimming across seven of the world's most difficult channels: the English, Catalina, Molokai, Gibraltar Strait, Tsugaru and North Channels and the Cook Strait. Only a man from Ireland has completed the challenge.

Each completed swim brings donations to the Forever Fund, which helps families pay for costs associated with infant cardiothoracic surgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Miller's swims have raised more than $60,000 for the nonprofit.

Every penny of the donations goes to the Forever Fund, Miller said. He said Trustmont Financial Group in Greensburg foots the bill for travel costs.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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