As eight-year-old Zac Bugeja stood up on the beach ladder just before jumping into the sea to start his first-ever swimming challenge, his stomach fluttered.

Yet he knew there was no going back.

“I was very happy and nervous,” Zac told Times of Malta.

Zac, who wants to raise awareness about the environment and plastic pollution, began training for the tough swimming challenge six months ago. His goal was to swim non-stop from Gerbulin to Slugs Bay in Mellieħa and back.

His swim started at 6pm on Tuesday, and he completed 2.3 kilometres in just one hour and 28 seconds.

Zac jumping into the water to start his swimming challenge Video: Lucianne Bugeja

“I thought I would take longer to finish, and hearing my dad tell me the time I completed the swim shocked me but also made me very happy,” Zac said.

Zac, joyful, but tired after his arduous challenge, described the experience as "amazing and good fun".

"The sea was so calm, you could walk on it, but unfortunately at times it was a bit murky, I couldn't even see my fingers in front of me!"

He also saw a few fish, although not as many as he had expected. The eight-year-old was also happy he did not come across any plastic during his swim.

School friends form part of support team

Zac said the atmosphere while swimming was a positive one, especially with family, friends and school teachers all gathered to cheer him on.

While out at sea, Zac was surrounded by a strong support team, pumping him up along the way.

“Three friends of mine, Jamie, Mimi and Mickey, joined my dad on the kayak, and they were my main support team,” he said.

A drone shot of Zac's swim, with kayaks with friends and family on either side supporting him Photo: Darius GoodwinA drone shot of Zac's swim, with kayaks with friends and family on either side supporting him Photo: Darius Goodwin

During his first ‘feed break’ Jamie and Mimi gave Zac water and a smoothie, while Mickey was his main supporter, giving him thumbs up in the water and cheering him on.

There were around 30 other people on boats following Zac’s swim.

Zac was also joined by his two coaches, former Olympian and environmental activist, Neil Agius and Mark Buttigieg.

In July, Agius completed a record-breaking swim from the Sicilian island of Linosa to Malta. He is Zac's main inspiration to take on the challenge, and has been his coach since he was just six months old.

Zac, joined by his two swimming coaches, former Olympian Neil Agius and Mark Buttigieg Video: Lucianne Bugeja

“It was so much fun swimming beside Mark and Neil, they both helped me push to finish the swim” Zac said.

His father, Gordon Bugeja, is one of the board members of ‘Wave of Change’ Foundation, and is part of the team that organises Agius' challenges. 

“It’s a beautiful and proud moment to see your son take on such a feat, to see six months of hard work and training become a reality,” he said.

“It’s all about the message, if an eight-year-old can put his heart and soul to raise more awareness about our environment and the sea, we can all play our part.”

Proud moment for coaches, Neil Agius and Mark Buttigieg, as Zac prepares for big challenge Photo:Gordon BugejaProud moment for coaches, Neil Agius and Mark Buttigieg, as Zac prepares for big challenge Photo:Gordon Bugeja

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