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Solo Swims

1. Irish (North) Channel (*
Location: Channel between Ireland and Scotland.
Course:  Heavy seas, cold water, thunderstorms and strong currents are among the natural elements that must be overcome in the rough water channel.
Distance: 33.7-kilometer channel (21 miles).
Date: Generally from July to September as conditions permit.
Description: Widely considered to be the most difficult channel swim in the world with the water temperature 54ºF (12ºC), normally overcast days, and tremendous difficulty in accurately predicting weather and water conditions.  Swimmers face large pods of jellyfish if conditions are calm.  Has been attempted at least 73 times since 1924, but only 8 successful solo swims and 5 relays have been achieved to date.  Most of the attempts have been abandoned due to difficult conditions and hypothermia. 
Additional Information: Swim crossings are governed by the rules set by the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association.  First attempt was made in 1924 and the first success was 1947.  

2. Cook Strait (*
Location: Channel between the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
 • Course:  A swim across immense tidal flows in icy water conditions and heavy surface chop among jellyfish and sharks are extremely stiff challenges for only the most capable and adventurous swimmers.
Distance: 16 nautical miles (26 kilometers)
Date: November through May as conditions permit.
Description: 1 in 6 swimmers encounter sharks on their crossings.  Sharks only come around to be nosey.  No one has ever been attached during a swim.  Both sides of the strait have rock cliffs.  Cold water (14ºC-19ºC or 57ºC-66ºF).
Additional Information: To date, only 71 successful crossings have been made by 61 individuals from 8 countries.  Hypothermia and change in weather conditions during a race are the most common reasons attempts fail.

3. Molokai Channel (*
Location: Channel between the western coast of Molokai Island and the eastern coast of Oahu in Hawaii.
Course:  Swim across a deep-water (701 meters) channel with extraordinarily strong currents in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and potentially aggressive marine life.
Distance: 27 miles.
Date: As conditions permit throughout the year.
Description: Extremely strong currents, extremely large rolling swells, strong winds, tropical heat and abundant marine life always present a challenge for solo swimmers, but are offset by the incredibly beautiful views of the Hawaiian Islands and underwater scenery. 
Additional Information: Channel with beautiful views of the Hawaiian Islands was first crossed in 1961 by Keo Nakama in 15 hours and 30 minutes and has only been crossed by 8 individuals to date.

4. English Channel ( or*
Location: Channel between England and France with the narrowest point being in the Strait of Dover between Shakespeare Beach, Dover, England and Calais, France.
Course:  An international waterway with cold water temperatures, strong currents and ever-shifting water and weather conditions.
Distance: 34 kilometers (21 miles)
Date: June to September as conditions permit.
Description: The world’s most famous channel crossing with nearly 1,000 successful swimmers to date, but thousands of failed attempts due to hypothermia, strong currents and tidal flows, strong winds and whitecaps caused by changing conditions.
Additional Information: Considered to be the standard for channel crossing with the rules and traditions significantly influencing the worldwide open water swimming community. 

5. Catalina Channel (*
Location: Channel between Santa Catalina Island that lies 21 miles off the coast of Southern California.
Course: Shortest point-to-point course is from Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island to the San Pedro Peninsula, near Cabrillo Beach.
Distance: 21 miles (33.7 kilometers).
Date: Solo and relay attempts generally made from June to October as conditions permit.
Description: A deep-water channel that is comparable to the English Channel in terms of water conditions, difficulty, distance and the physical and mental challenges to the swimmer.  Mid-60°F water with occasional marine life, including migrating whales and large pods of dolphins.
Additional Information: First successful swim was in January, 1927 when Canadian George Young won $25,000 in the Wrigley Ocean Marathon Swim in 15 hours and 44 minutes.

6. Tsugaru Channel (*
Location: Deep-water channel between Honshu, the main island of Japan where Tokyo is located, and Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Closest points are Tappi Misaki in Honshu and Shirakami Misaki in Hokkaido.
Course: An international waterway where swimmers must cross a strong current, large swells and abundant marine life between the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean.  English and other western languages are not spoken in area. Water can be between 62-68ºF (16-20ºC).
Distance: 19.5 kilometers (12 miles) at its narrowest point. 
Date: July and August as conditions permit.
Description: Swimmers are swept long distances due to the extraordinarily strong currents flowing from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean.  Swimmers face large blooms of squid during the night.  Swimmers are challenged by occasional patches of cold water that flow up from the depths and are caused by the screws of the large oil tankers from the Middle East travel through to the West Coast of the U.S. 
Additional Information: Only four confirmed solo crossings and one confirmed double-crossing have been achieved to date.

7. Strait of Gibraltar (*
Location: Strait between Spain and Morocco that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. 
Course: An international waterway with its shortest point between Punta Oliveros in Spain and Punta Cires in Morocco.
Distance: 14.4 kilometers (8 miles).
Date: June to October as conditions permit.
Description: Swimmers must cross an eastern flow of water from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea with an average of 3 knots (5.5 km per hour).  Heavy boat traffic, logistical barriers and surface chop confront swimmers throughout each attempt. 
Additional Information: Its boundaries were known in antiquity as the Pillars of Hercules.  The currents remain of Herculean strength.  Combined with the unpredictability of the water conditions and high winds, only 185 successful one-way crossings and 7 double-crossings have been made to date.  Most attempts are made from Tarifa Island due to the influence of strong currents, a distance of 18.5-22 kilometers (10-12 miles).
8. Marathon del Golfo Capri-Napoli (
Location: Between Island of Capri and Napoli, Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. 
Course: A potentially rough course.
Distance: 36 kilometers (22.4 miles).
Date: Annual professional race held in July.
Description: Winds can whip up whitecaps and surface chop during a race that attracts the world’s best professional marathon swimmers. 
Additional Information: Race director also organizes a FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup.

9. Alcatraz Island (,,
Location: San Francisco Bay, California.
Course: From Alcatraz Island to Aquatic Park during flood tide in San Francisco Bay.
Distance: 1.25 miles.
Date: Year-round.
Description: Extraordinarily strong currents present a challenge.  Cold water (under 60°F).  Spectacular point-to-point swim within the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the picturesque San Francisco skyline.
Additional Information: Numerous clinics and at least 7 annual races held throughout the year.

10. Maui Channel ( and
Location: Deep-water Auau Channel between the island of Lanai and the island of Maui in Hawaii.
Course: Start at the north side of Lanai on an uninhabited stretch of beach and finish at Kaanapali on the south side of Maui.
Distance: 9.6 miles.
Date: As conditions permit throughout the year.
Description: One of the most beautiful channels in the world with views of 5 islands (Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Hawaii) if the weather permits.  Generally calm conditions, colorful marine life and clear warm cobalt blue water with strong winds and very strong currents on occasion.
Additional Information: Location of a world-famous six-person relay race. Contact Ian Emberson at

11. Tampa Bay Marathon Swim (
Location: Tampa Bay, Florida.
Course: Covers the length of Tampa Bay, from the Sunspree Resort in St. Petersburg to the Ben T. David Beach on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Distance: 24 miles.
Date: April.
Description: Warm-water race that features pods of dolphins following swimmers on occasion.
Additional Information:  Possibility of high winds, surface chop and poor visibility.  Open Water Boot Camp also offered.  Contact Ron Collins at

12. Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (   
Location: Around Manhattan Island in New York City, New York.
Course: Circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, starting and finishing near Wall Street.
Distance: 28.5 miles.
• Date: July or as conditions permit.
Description: Annual race hosted by the Manhattan Island Foundation is limited to 25 solo swimmers and 18 relay teams that start and finish at Battery Park City.  Substantial surface chop and strong tidal pull are possible.  Water temperature varies between 64-67°F (17-19°C).  Salt water around Manhattan Island may also include random jetsam and flotsam.  A Qualifying Swim must be completed before application will be accepted. 
Additional Information: For more information, contact

13. Swim Around Key West (
Location: Key West, Florida.
Course: Circumnavigation around Key West, the southernmost tip of Florida.
Distance: 12.5 miles.
• Date: 2 different races held in June. 
Description: Beautiful, shallow, generally calm, warm-water (85°F) course with the bottom of the ocean visible throughout the course.  Abundant marine life includes conch shells, manna rays, seaweed, sting rays, seat turtles, very docile nurse sharks and colorful tropical fish.
Additional Information: Race has a unique Lightening Rule: if a lightening storm threatens the swimmer, the swimmer may swim to shore or get into their escort boat and head for shelter.  Once the threat passes the swimmer may re-enter the water in as near to the location he/she exited the water as possible.  The swimmer will not be disqualified for the event; however the clock continues to run.  Contact Bill Welzien at

14. Swim Around Key West (
Location: Key West, Florida.
Course: Circumnavigation around Key West, the southernmost tip of Florida.
Distance: 12.5 miles.
• Date: 2 different races held in June. 
Description: Beautiful, shallow, generally calm, warm-water (85°F) course with the bottom of the ocean visible throughout the course.  Abundant marine life includes conch shells, manna rays, seaweed, sting rays, seat turtles, very docile nurse sharks and colorful tropical fish.
Additional Information: Contact Lori Bosco at

15. Lake Tahoe (
Location: Lake Tahoe, California.
Course: From Sand Harbor Beach in Nevada to Skylandia Beach, Lake Forest, California.
Distance: 11.5 miles.
Date: Annual relay race held in July.
Description: Lake is at an altitude of more than 6,200 feet.  It is a cold-water (55-60°F), clear-water event that requires a high level of physical fitness.
Additional Information: Swim crosses two state lines. 

16. Pennock Island Challenge (  
Location: In Ketchikan, Alaska.
Course: Around Pennock Island in the Tongass Narrows. 
Distance: 8.2 miles.
• Date: Annual race is held in July
Description: Current-assisted course sheltered from large surf everywhere except the sound end.  Water temperature is between mid-50’s°F to low 60’s°F.  Air temperature will range from the mid-60’s°F to mid 80’s°F.  Swimmers can enter as solo and as members of a relay.  Wetsuits are allowed, but will have their own awards category.
Additional Information: Fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. Contact William Schulz at

17. Boston Light Swim (  
Location: Boston, Massachusetts.
Course: From Little Brewster Island to L Street Beach.
Distance: 8 miles.
Date: Annual race held in August.
Description: Strong winds (up to 45 mph in recent years), cold water (60°F in recent years) and oncoming waves (3-4 feet in height in recent years) are possible.
Additional Information: Called the “Granddaddy of American open-water marathons”.  2008 was the 100th anniversary of the earliest account of the Boston Light Swim.  Contact John Werner at

18. Swim Across Long Island Sound (  
Location: Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Course: From Captain’s Cove Marina in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Port Jefferson.
Distance: 25 kilometers.
• Date: Annual St. Vincent’s Foundation race is held in August.
Description: Annual race is a charity swim for cancer prevention, education and support programs sponsored by St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound.  Contact

19. Lake George Swim (  
Location: Lake George Village in New York.
Course: Between Lake George Village and Hague in Lake George. 
Distance: 41 kilometers.
Date: Annual race is held in July.
Description: 20 mph winds possible in a beautiful lake.
Additional Information: 41K swim marathon was held for the first time 80 years in 2007. Contact Graham Bailey at

20. Atlantic City Around-the-Island Marathon Swim (   
Location: Absecon Island, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Course: Circumnavigation of Absecon Island, starting and finishing on inlet or ocean side.
Distance: 22.5 miles.
Date: Annual professional race is held in summer as conditions and sponsors permit.
Description: Water temperature varies between 54-77°F (12-25°C) between Atlantic Ocean and back bay.  Demanding swim has strong tides and current, varying conditions, and attracts the world's top swimming professionals.
Additional Information: Race has been cancelled last few years.  Contact

21. Santa Barbara Channel Swims (
Location: Channel between Santa Cruz Island and Santa Barbara, California.
Course: From Santa Cruz Island to East Beach
Distance: 26 miles.
Date: Generally from June to September as conditions permit.
Description: Channel has mild currents with an average water temperature of 60-70°F (15-21°C) and occasional marine life.
Additional Information: Contact Emilio Casanueva at

22. Ederle Swim (  
Location: from Battery Park, New York to Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Course: Point-to-point swim.
Distance: 17.5 miles.
Date: Annual race is held in October or as conditions permit.
Description: Water temperature can be warm with severe surface chop and fog.
Additional Information: Limited to 10 swimmers.  For more information, contact  

23. Rottnest Channel Swim (   
Location: near Perth, Australia.
Course: from Cottesloe Beach in Perth to Thomson Bay on Rottnest Island, Australia.
Distance: 19.2 kilometers.
Date: Annual solo and relay race (2-person and 4-person) is held in February.
Description: Conditions can be rough in open ocean.  Occasional marine life. 
Additional Information: Relay race limit of 2,300 is reached within 4 days; relay entry opens in early November. There is a random selection of relay teams based on set criteria.  Solo swimmers gain automatic entry.  Solo entry closes in late November.  First-time solo swimmers must complete a 10K qualifying swim in 4 hours and 15 minutes or less.  For information, go to

* The Ocean’s Sevens
Background: The Seven Summits are the highest mountains in each of the seven continents.  Successfully scaling these mountains is a mountaineering challenge attained by only the strongest.  As of 2007, 198 climbers have achieved this expensive and physically demanding goal.

The Ocean’s Seven include:

  1. Irish Channel between Ireland and Scotland
  2. Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand
  3. Molokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii
  4. English Channel between England and France
  5. Catalina Channel near Los Angeles, California
  6. Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan
  7. Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa.

The Seven Second Summits is another mountaineering term that refers to the second-highest peak of each continent. 

Candidate swims for the Seven Second Summits include:

  1. Straits of Magellan in Chile
  2. Skagerrak Strait between Norway, Sweden and Denmark
  3. Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope both in South Africa
  4. Lake Baikal in Russia
  5. Beagle Channel between Argentina and Chile
  6. Lake Titicaca from Bolivia to Peru
  7. Gulf of Aqaba (or Eilat) between Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia
  8. Loch Ness in Scotland
  9. Isle of Wight
  10. Majorca to Minorca, Spanish Balearic Islands
  11. Five Lakes of Mount Fuji in Japan
  12. Lake Balaton in Hungary
  13. Lac St-Jean in Quebec, Canada
  14. Lac Memphremagog from Vermont to Quebec, Canada
  15. Jeble to Latakia in Syria
  16. Gulf of Toroneos in Greece

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