There are a number of colorful champions, powerful personalities and charismatic characters in the open water swimming world.
Some of them are known to the media by their nicknames; others are simply known among their friends and family.
Catalinator: Hank Wise (shown on left) is one of the fastest men to ever complete a solo crossing of the Catalina Channel and was both the lead-off and anchor swimmer for the fastest relay team across the Catalina Channel. A coach with charisma oozes out of every pore, he coaches children and adults to appreciate the marine world with respect in his native Long Beach, California.
Big River Man: Martin Strel is a legendary Slovenian ultra-marathon swimmer who is best known for completing stage swims along the entire length of the Danube River, the Mississippi River, the Yangtze River, and the Amazon River. He operates Strel Swimming Adventure Holidays with his son Borut Strel and is also known as Fish man, Homem Peixe (Portuguese), Pez humano (Spanish), Zabca (Slovene which means frog), and Maladin (Chinese).
Shark of Quilla Creek: Pedro Candiotti is an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer from Argentina swam from 1922 to 1946, including a 390 km (242-mile) swim between March 14 and 17, 1930 from Goya to Santa Fe in a total time of 66 hours 15 minutes down the River Plate. He tried 17 times to swim 328 km (204 miles) from Rosario to Buenos Aires in Argentina, but failed each time. His last attempt of 74 hours 30 minutes. His longest swim was 84 hours in length when he swam 452 km (281 miles) down the Parana River from Santa Fe to Zarate in Argentina.
Paddlin’ Professor: American Dr. Harry H. Briggs is an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer is a political science professor who was the first person to swim from Corsica to Sardinia in 1955 and was the first to complete a swim across Lake Erie from Ohio (USA) to Ontario (Canada) in 1957 in 35 hours 55 minutes.
Carpayo: Peruvian Olympic swimmer Daniel Eulogio Carpio Massioti swam at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, 1936 Berlin Olympics and 1948 London Olympics. He was the first South American to cross the English Channel in 1947 and also crossed in 1951 in the Daily Mail Race in 13 hours 50 minutes. He crossed the River Plate in 1945, 1977, and 1982 when he was 72 years old. He held national titles in Chile and Argentina and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 1948, 1977, and 1988 when he was 78 years old.
El Sharko: Christopher Blakeslee is the one the oldest successful swimmers of the English Channel and is a cold-water swimmer from San Francisco Bay. He is a member of the Half Century Club and has achieved the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. He is the race director for the South End Rowing Club’s 17th Annual Alcatraz Invitational.
Trento: Australian professional marathon swimmer Trent Grimsey is one of the fastest and most prolific open water swimmers in the world today, swimming from South Africa to Canada, from China to Australia.
Crocodile of the Nile: Egyptian Abdul Latif Abou Heif enjoyed a tremendous marathon swimming career from 1953 to 1972. In 2001, he was voted Marathon Swimmer of the Century by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and is an inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. He won the longest professional swim to date, 96.5 km (60 miles) in Lake Michigan in 34 hours 45 minutes and competed in 68 international races – winning 25 – between 30 km (18.6 miles) and 80 km (49.7 miles) in water temperatures ranging between 12°C – 28.8°C (54-84°F) in France, Italy, United States, Canada, Argentina, Lebanon, England, Yugoslavia, Mexico and Holland.
American Torpedo: John Kinsella of Hinsdale, Illinois was a renowned Olympic pool swimmer and professional marathon swimmer inducted in both the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978 as an Honour Swimmer and in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1986.
Big Moose: American Norman Ross won 3 gold medals in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics and set 13 world records and won 18 U.S. national championships. Norman also entered the 1927 Wrigley Ocean Marathon from Catalina Island to the California mainland and the 33.7 km (21-mile) Canadian National Exhibition races in 1927 and 1928. He was honored by the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1967 and the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1984.
Black Shark: Ernest Vierkoetter of Germany was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978. He set the record for the English Channel in 1926 in 12 hours 40 minutes that would stand for 24 years. He also won US$30,000 for winning the 33.7 km (21-mile) Canadian National Exhibition in 11 hours 45 minutes in Toronto in 1927.
The Flying Dutchman: Herman Willemse was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Swimmer in 1963 and is also inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Willemse dominated professional marathon swimming between 1960 and 1964, winning the 30 km (19-mile) Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean in Canada in 10 hours 7 minutes in 1961, in 9 hours 3 minutes in 1962 and in 8 hours 32 minutes in 1963, the 36 km (22.5-mile) Around-the-Island Marathon Swim in Atlantic City, USA five times from 1960 to 1964, the 24 km (15-mile) Canadian National Exhibition race in 1961 and 1962, the 37 km (23-mile) la Descente ou remontée du Saguenay in 6 hours 15 minutes in 1966, three 16 km (10-mile) Tois Riviere Swims in 1961 to 1963 in Canada, the 58 km (36-mile) Santa Fe-Coronda race in Argentina in 1963 with two third-place finishes in 1964 and 1966, 45 km (28-mile) Mar del Plato in Argentina, 42 km (26 miles) in the Suez Canal in Egypt, 88 km (54.6-mile) Hernandarias-Parana swim in Argentina and 32 km (20-mile) Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli in Italy.
The King: Claudio Plit of Argentina was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame for his exploits in the professional marathon swimming world for over 30 years. Plit finished in the to 3 in 45 professional marathon races between his peak years between 1974 and 1984 throughout North America, South America, Europe and Africa. He has also done swims in English Channe and the Beltquerung.
The King: Paul Asmuth was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He has guided the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Team since 2007. He won seven World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation titles between 1980 and 1985 and in 1988, finishing 59 professional marathon swimming races in all kinds of conditions: cold, warm, flat, rough. He won six 42 km (26-mile) Traversée Internationale du lac Memphrémagog in Canada and was named Athlete of the Decade (1990s) by the Atlantic City Press (New Jersey, USA).
The King: Diego Degano was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and a world-class pro swimmer in the 1990s. He won the 40 km (25-mile) Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean race in 1991, was 2nd in the 1992 Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean and 5th in the 1993 Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean. He also placed second in the 1990 Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli that was the professional marathon swimming championship that year.
Queen Shelley: Shelley Taylor-Smith is an inductee in both the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame for her 7-time world professional marathon swimming titles. She is also one of the longest serving volunteers on the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee who won the inaugural FINA World Swimming Championship 25 km in 1990. She had the fastest time for a circumnavigation around Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and won the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim several times.
Dorado: Horacio Iglesias is an Honour Swimmer from Argentina who was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968 and was similarly honored by the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He was the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation world champion in 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1972, and runner-up in 1968 and 1970. He won the 24 Heures La Tuque relay swim six times with three different partners, including Egypt’s Abou Heif and Holland’s Judith DeNys.
Killer: Ky Hurst (Australia)
The Legless Wonder: Charles Zibelman (also known as the American Legless Wonder and The Human Fish
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