Turning an Athletic Feat into a Social Movement

Feats of endurance, skill and human creativity routinely capture the attention of the world. Think of Diana Nyad’s efforts to swim from Cuba to Florida, or Steve Fossett’s round-the-world balloon flights.

This has led many activists to promote their causes using an “epic event” to draw media attention. But for every Julia “Butterfly” Hill, whose two-year encampment in a Redwood tree highlighted the destruction of old-growth forests, many other projects fail to capture the public’s attention or convert the achievement into a call to action.

Paul Ellis completes his swim in 2004

The ChangeStream Media team recently had the pleasure of spending time with Paul Ellis, a man who knows a thing or two about staging an epic event and connecting it with a cause. Ten years ago, Paul swam 45 miles over the world’s second largest coral reef to bring notice to the importance and fragility of this unique ecosystem.

Paul explained that training to swim 14 hours in shark-filled waters as a sixty-year old was a challenge, but turning that event into appearances on CNN and an upcoming documentary required an equal measure of skill, luck and resolve.

For anyone considering taking an action that aligns with their values, be it a 5k charity run or rowing across an ocean, we hope this video provides guidance and inspiration!