While he is primarily known for his cold-water swims in Antarctica, across the North Pole, and up 5,200 meters on Mount Everest, Pugh also has a knack for accomplishing the extreme of the unique kind.
Pugh’s talents and commitment to extend himself to the extremes truly stretches his physiological and psychological boundaries. His control over his body with his mind is extraordinary. In order to prepare himself for his cold water swims, Pugh has to acclimate himself over long periods of time as well as undergo anticipatory thermo-genesis just before his icy swims. But he prepares himself to withstand hypothermia and freezing in the same calendar year that he also prepares himself for the opposite extreme – hyperthermia and overheating in warm water.
How he handles these two extremes in both air and water temperatures is mind-boggling and unprecedented.
In 1992, he not only swam 25 km in 32°C (89.6°F) water across Lake Malawi in Africa, but he also successfully swam the English Channel. While this 15-17°C water temperature difference is tough, it was only the beginning of Pugh’s ability to stretch himself at both ends of the thermometer.
In 2007, Pugh probably took the human body as far as it could possibly stretch in the open water. Not only did he complete a 10-day, 140 km unprecedented stage swim across the width of Maldive Islands in 30°C (86°F) water, but he also completed an unprecedented 1 km swim across the North Pole in -1.7°C (28.9°F) water in 18 minutes 50 seconds. This variance – nearly 32°C or 57°F in the same calendar year – is unprecedented and truly stretches the imagination how flexible the human body can be trained and how far the human mind can push the body.
1987 – Robben Island to Cape Town, 7 km in 3 hours
1992 – Crossing of Lake Malawi, 25 km in 32°C water in 9 hours 52 minutes
1992 – Crossing of the English Channel in 14 hours 50 minutes
1993 – Dassen Island to Yzerfontein, 10 km in 2 hours 35 minutes
1994 – Unprecedented swim around Cape Agulhas, South Africa, 10 km in 4 hours 1 minute
2003 – Swim around North Cape, Finland, 5 km in 1 hour 4 minutes
2004 – Unprecedented swim around Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, 12 km in 3 hours 15 minutes
2004 – Stage swim around Cape Peninsula, 100 km in 13 days
2004 – Record-setting circumnavigation around Robben Island, 10 km in 3 hours 42 minutes
2004 – Unprecedented stage swim down Sogneford, Norway, 204 km in 21 days
2005 – Swim across Magdalenefjord, Spitsbergen, 1 km in 3°C water in 20 minutes 30 seconds
2005 – Swim in Petermann Island, Antarctica, 1 km in 0°C water in 18 minutes
2005 – Swim across Whaler’s Bay in Deception Island, South Shetland islands, 1.6 km in 30 minutes 30 seconds
2006 – Swim across Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, 16 km in 4 hours 57 minutes
2006 – Unprecedented swim from Manly Beach to Sydney Opera House, 16 km in 6 hours 1 minute
2006 – Completes the Five Oceans
2006 – Gold medal in 500m freestyle at the World Winter Swimming Championships in Finland
2006 – Swim in Nigards Glacier Lake, Norway, 1.25 km in 0°C water
2006 – Unprecedented stage swim down the River Thames, 350 km in 21 days
2007 – Unprecedented stage swim across the width of Maldive Islands, 140 km in 30°C water in 10 days
2007 – Unprecedented swim across the North Pole, 1 km in -1.7°C water in 18 minutes 50 seconds
2008 – Kayak across the Arctic Ocean
2009 – Awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Ikhamanga (Gold Class)
2010 – Unprecedented swim in a glacial lake on Mount Everest, 1 km in 22 minutes 51 seconds at 5,200m altitude
2010 – Appointed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
2011 – Appointed a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
2013 – Inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame
For more information on the Global Open Water Swimming Conference and the 2013 International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame ceremonies, visit here.
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