An Epsom man may have had a close-encounter with a shark as he took on one of the world’s greatest swimming challenges in the US.

Epsom District Swimming Club member and former borough Sports Personality of the Year Mick Helps undertook the formidable 21-mile journey between Catalina Island and the Californian mainland on August 28.

Often referred to as America’s equivalent to the English Channel, the length, conditions, and temperature are all similar – but the main difference being the patch of water is known to harbour sharks and whales.

This led to a particularly hair-raising experience for Mick’s support crew, which included his two sons, William and Matthew, as well as World Swimming Hall of Fame member Michelle Macy, when they saw a large shadow loom under him in the water.

Speaking to the Surrey Comet, 53-year-old father of three Mick said: “The crew saw something under the boat, they couldn’t make out what it was.

Surrey Comet:

Mick with his sons William (left) and Matthew (right)

“They were going to pull the swim, but then it disappeared and it was then that I could see dolphins beneath us.”

This encounter with the dolphins proved to be one of the most memorable moments of Mick’s swim.

He said: “it’s just a magical experience really, until you’ve had it you just can’t describe it.”

It was only after he had completed his 13 hour 50 minute swim that Mick was told of what could have been a near-miss from below, however the confident swimmer says he never felt he was in any danger.

He said: “The waters are known for various forms of wildlife so I knew I’d be further down the food chain if anything serious occurred, but equally I had total confidence in my crew and pilot to keep me safe. It’s what makes these swims special.”

The Catalina Channel swim is one of the Mick’s greatest swimming achievements, along with two complete swims across the English Channel and across the Gibraltar Straits.

His extensive swimming career has also included routes around Jersey Island, two lengths of Lake Windermere, Lake Zurich, the Bosporus Crossing and Bonifacio Channel.

He now has his sights on a complete swim around New York’s Manhattan Island.

This, together with his journeys across the English Channel and the Catalina Channel will see him awarded the sports coveted Triple Crown Award.