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Incredible Open Water Swimmers - Find Inspiration

Open water swimming isn't just a challenge of physical strength. In fact, I'd say it's 20% physical abilities and 80% mental grit and determination. The sport has seen numerous athletes break barriers and set remarkable records, and I wanted to celebrate some of the most incredible open water swimmers who have changed the sport and open water community.

Gertrude Ederle

Gertrude Ederle, an American competitive swimmer, was the first woman to swim across the English Channel. In 1926, Ederle achieved this feat, covering the distance in 14 hours and 34 minutes, beating the existing men's record by nearly two hours. Ederle's accomplishment was a milestone for women in sports, proving that they could compete on equal footing with men. Her accomplishment was celebrated worldwide, and she became an enduring symbol of women's athletic potential.

Lynne Cox

Lynne Cox, author of "Swimming to Antarctica," has achieved so many extraordinary swims. 1987, she swam across the Bering Strait from the United States to the Soviet Union, a 2.3-mile swim in near-freezing waters, symbolizing a bridge between the two nations during the Cold War. Cox has also completed swims in the icy waters of Antarctica, Lake Baikal in Siberia, and the English Channel. Because of her cold tolerance, she's contributed to cold immersion research and helped the open water community understand how to train in cold conditions.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is known for her record-breaking long-distance swims across some of the world's most challenging waters. In 2019, she became the first person to swim across the English Channel four times non-stop, roughly 130 miles, which took her ~54 hours to complete. This unbelievable accomplishment came just a year after she finished treatment for breast cancer. She's also an avid crew member and event director, helping other swimmers train and accomplish ultramarathon swims of their own.

Florence Chadwick

Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. Her first crossing was in 1950, and she completed the return swim in 1951. Chadwick went on to set records in various long-distance swims, including the Catalina Channel in California. Her achievements paved the way for future generations of open water swimmers and demonstrated the possibilities within the sport when opportunities for women in sports were very limited.

Penny Palfrey

Penny Palfrey, an Australian-British open water swimmer, is known for her long-distance swims in challenging conditions. In 2011, she set a world record by swimming 68 miles from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman without the aid of a shark cage. Palfrey has also attempted the Cuba to Florida swim, facing jellyfish stings, strong currents, and the threat of sharks, showcasing her bravery and tenacity.

Chloe McCardel

Chloe McCardel, an Australian marathon swimmer, has achieved multiple records in open water swimming. She holds the record for the most crossings of the English Channel by a woman, with 44 successful swims as of 2021. In 2014, McCardel completed a 77-mile swim in the Bahamas, one of the longest non-stop solo swims in history. Her accomplishments highlight her exceptional endurance and commitment to the sport.

The open water swimming community is filled with extraordinary people, and absolutely not limited to swimmers. The folks who help put on swims as volunteers, directors, shore support, and crew members are often the invisible base of the iceberg, and the swimmer is just the tip.

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