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A Most Inspirational, Incredibly Educational Interview with Maarten van der Weijden

Olympic champion and open water swimming icon Maarten van der Weijden set a new world record on December 30th at 45 hours 0 minutes 0 seconds for the longest continuous swims in a counter-current pool, breaking the current Guinness World Record of 36 hours 0 minutes 19 seconds set by Pablo Fernández Álvarez of Spain in January 2022.

Shelley Taylor-Smith and Steven Munatones spoke with Maarten in a most incredibly inspirational and educational interview. Maarten talked about:

  • his motivation: the passing of his best friend Sebastiaan
  • how he planned and achieved this Guinness World Record
  • how he planned and executed the swim – from feeding breaks to bathroom breaks
  • what he was thinking throughout the swim
  • the logistics, operational, and observer team
  • his 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim victory
  • his battle with leukemia and the experiences of other cancer patients
  • the hallucinations and macerated skin
  • the value of enjoying swimming
  • the investment in being a professional athlete
  • and so much more wisdom, guidance, and inspiration about swimming, overcoming adversities, and healthy perspectives

His wisdom, insights, and perspectives are fascinating.

Listen and learn below from the raw, unedited interview, Part 1 about his Guinness World Record swim and Part 2 about his 2008 Olympic 10 km marathon swim gold medal performance:

Maarten’s feet and hands shown above are clear evidence of the wet-wrinkling response after 45 hours in the water.

The famed Dutch leukemia survivor talked about his new record of 45 hours, “It was an interesting adventure, [unfortunately] I slept very bad the night before.

I began to hallucinate during the first night already. Knowing there would be a second night after that one [was difficult]. I had a mental challenge on top of the swim. But it really helped to have Sebastiaan’s picture right next to me and to see all the beautiful flames in the garden that we put on every hour in memory of his 45 years on this Earth.

The second night I was terrified because I was hallucinating that my own house and garden (where the pool is located) was full of ugly bald-headed tattooed monsters looking angry. After a couple of hours, they left and I was able to finish. I’m very happy to memorize Sebastiaan, celebrate the 45 researchers and break the record.

For more information, visit here at To see a replay of his entire 45-hour feat, visit here.

Maarten started at 5:00:41 am on December 28th and finished at 2:00:41 am on December 30th. He swam in his continuous flow pool at his home in his hometown of Vught in the southern Netherlands.

Maarten explained, “With the swim, I wanted to combine three things:

  • I wanted to memorise my best friend Sebastiaan who died this year in October from lymphoma disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, at the age of 45.
  • I wanted to celibrate that the Maarten van der Weiden Foundation made 45 cancer research projects possible because we raised almost €18,000,000 (US$19,437,390) the last two years. Every single euro is fully allocated to one of the 45 cancer research projects. We are very very grateful with all the donations that we received so far and will not ask for more with this event.
  • I wanted to break the Guiness World Record.

The livestream of the entire swim as made available at

Maarten explained more about Sebastiaan, “Two months ago my best buddy Sebastiaan passed away. He only turned 45. The last two more weeks of his life, I was allowed to take care of him. [It was] a hot and intense period. I’m so happy I was able to do that for him.

Unfortunately, it makes the grief and missing it no less. It feels so unfair that Sebastiaan was only allowed to turn 45 years old. That he helped me for many years – as a coach on the boat – raise millions for cancer research. After which he then got ill himself and unfortunately didn’t have the luck to recover.

Everyone fills grief in a different way. For me sport has always been an outlet. Also now, after the death of Sebas. And as the end of the year approaches, I feel the need to close this year and look back on the important events that took place. Both the sad and the beautiful.”

Maarten swam 45 hours – an hour for every year of Sebastiaan’s life. Every hour, Maarten’s team lit a torch to commemorate Sebastian’s 45 years of life.

But there is more to this effort.

Maarten says, “The number 45 is symbolic for another reason. Because in recent years we have made 45 cancer research possible with the three Elf City tours. I am very grateful for that. Doing such a big event for the fourth time is not obvious. So here too it feels like closure. Not because I’m stopping raising money for cancer research, but I’ll keep doing so. But undoubtedly in a different, more modest form. With the standing promise that 100% of our donations go to cancer research.

If I fill the 45 hours in my power pool, that will be a world record. On the one hand, side business considering the reason I do it. On the other hand a beautiful marking. From my tribute to Sebastiaan and from the 45 researches we funded.”

Munatones says, “No one in the sport has made an impact like Maarten. Olympic champion. World 25 km marathon swimming champion. Leukemia survivor. Author. Speaker. Motivator. Icon. Every year for the past 20 years, it seems like Maarten continues to exceed expectations and reach out to people. He is kind, compassionate, and thoughtful. He is intense, competitive, and a blazing fast swimmer. He is a visionary, entrepreneur, and creative thinker.

Imagine raising nearly US$20 million dollars to help fight cancer. Just incredible.

Historical longest continuous swims in a counter-current pool record progression

  • February 2014: Chloë McCardel of Australia set the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool in 16 hours at the SPASA Victoria consumer Pool & Spa + Outdoor Living Expo in Australia.
  • May 2018: Dennis T. Seiler-Holm of Denmark set the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool in 17 hours 7 minutes 1.82 seconds in a Swim Spa in Denform Expo in Aarhus, Denmark.
  • October 2019: Yuko Matsuzaki of Japan set a Guinness World Record for the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool conducted in an Endless Pool in Seaside Lagoon, Redondo Beach, California after swimming 24 hours 1 minute from 8:00 am on 5 October to 8:01 am on 6 October 2019. Her support team included Chris Morgan, Chieko Smith, Shelley Taylor-Smith, Steven Munatones, Josef Köberl, Mark Lutz, Steve Stumpfrock and Kaori Rogers. Her pace ranged from 1:55 per 100 meters swimming freestyle to 3:22 per 100 meters swimming breaststroke.
  • May 2020: Pablo Fernández Álvarez of Spain set a Guinness World Record for the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool conducted in an Endless Pool in Madrid, Spain after swimming 25 hours from 9:00 am on 6 May to 10:00 am on 7 May 2020.
  • June 2020: Alberto Lorente of Viladecans, Spain set a record for the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool after swimming 30 consecutive hours from 11.00 am on 27 June to 5:00 pm.
  • November 2020: Mayra Santos of Brazil/Portugal set a world record for the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool in Caniço, Madeira Island, Portugal from 10:00 am on 5 November 2020 to 5:07 pm on 6 November 2020, a total of 31 hours 7 minutes.
  • November 2020: Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands set a world record of 32 hours 20 minutes 50 seconds for the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool in Eindhoven, Netherlands swimming from 9:00 am on 20 November to 5:20 pm on 21 November 2021.
  • November 2021: the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool was set in 35 hours 20 minutes 50 seconds.
  • January 2022: Pablo Fernández Álvarez of Spain set a Guinness World Record for the Longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool conducted in an Endless Pool in Clicars, Madrid, Spain after swimming 36 hours 0 minutes 19 seconds
  • December 28-30, 2023: Maarten van der Weijden set a new record of 45 hours 0 minutes

Note: these swims allow up to 5 minutes per hour for rest, hydration, and restroom breaks.

Maarten’s observer team included Bart Bodman, Suzanne WinterLauren EickholtJoost FrenckenEsmee in des MaurDennis BruggenmansEsther Siebel, and Joe Montagna.

© 2023 Daily News of Open Water Swimming

to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture past the shoreline

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