Here is a short list of popular and wonderfully entertaining and informative books on open water swimming:
1. The Great Swim by Gavin Mortimer. In the summer of 1926, four American women race to be the first female to swim across the English Channel.
2. America’s Girl: The Incredible Story of How Swimmer Gertrude Ederle Changed the Nation by Tim Dahlberg. This well-researched biography traces Gertrude’s development as a competitive swimmer and pioneering channel swimmers.
3. Nothing Great is Easy by Des Renford with Ian Heads. An engaging autobiography that covers an amazingly colorful life of an accomplished marathon swimmer who retired as the King of the Channel with 19 crossings (19 attempts and 19 successes).
4. Wind, Waves, and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming by Conrad Wennerberg. Considered to be one of the most authoritative accounts of top channel swimmers throughout history and professional marathon swimmers focusing on the stars from the 1950’s to 1970’s.
5. Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox. A classic, colorfully descriptive sports memoir of arguably one of history’s greatest swimming adventurers.
8. Young Woman and the Sea – How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World by Glenn Stout. A historical perspective of the first crossing of the English Channel by a woman.
9. Triathlon Swimming Made Easy – The Total Immersion Way for Anyone to Master Open-Water Swimming by Terry Laughlin. Words of wisdom from a masterful stroke technique and popular speaker aimed at triathletes to help make swimming the best part of their triathlon.
10. Swim to Glory: The Story of Marilyn Bell and the Lakeshore Swimming Club by Ron McAllister. Provides the rich history of Marilyn Bell’s historic 1954 crossing of Lake Ontario and her association with Gus Ryder and the Lakeshore Swimming Club and its domination of the 1954 Atlantic City professional swim.
14. It’s Cold in the Channel by Sam Rockett. Provides an excellent history of swimming in the English Channel swimming up to the 1950’s including the professional races organized by Billy Butlin and the Daily Mail.
15. Modern Long Distance Swimming by Commander Charles Gerald Forsberg OBE, RN. An authoritative insight to the world of open water swimming over 50 years ago written by a former English Channel record holder.
16. Long Distance Swimming by Commander Charles Gerald Forsberg OBE, RN. A colorful description of channel swimming and open water swimming published in 1957 that remains modern and insightful even for contemporary marathon swimmers.
17. Dangerous When Wet – The Shelley Taylor-Smith Story by Shelley Taylor-Smith and Ian Cockerill. The entertaining and educational autobiography of the Australian world champion swimmer with seven consecutive world titles and several head-to-head victories over the best men in the sport.
19. Captain Webb and 100 years of Channel Swimming by Margaret A. Jarvis. Includes detailed accounts of English Channel swims by Captain Webb and others during the first 100 years in addition to numerous photographs of the swimmers and the history behind the formation of the Channel Swimming Association.
20. Fair Sport – The History of Sport at the Canadian National Exhibition, 1879-1977 Inclusive by A.W. “Bill” Leveridge. Includes the history of marathon swimming greats like George Young and Ernst Vierkoetter and events like the Wrigley Trophy and the Canadian National Exhibition marathon swim.
21. Dover Solo by Marcia Cleveland. The story of an American woman’s incredible journey of discovery, preparation and training for her English Channel crossing.
22. A cada brazada el azul interminable in Spanish (With each stroke, the endless blue) by Antonio Argüelles and Nora Toledano describes their crossings that they equate to a survival in the sea of life.
23. The Man Who Swam the Amazon – 3274 Miles on the World’s Deadliest River by Matthew Mohlke. A gripping and inspirational story of the perseverance and passion of Martin Strel’s solo stage swim down the Amazon.
24. Open Water Swimming by Penny Lee Dean. An authoritative how-to book on drills, techniques, training methodologies and insight from the former English Channel record holder.
25. Marilyn Bell: The Heart-Stopping Tale of Marilyn’s Record-Breaking Swim by Patrick Tivy. Describes Marilyn Bell’s swim across Lake Ontario.
26. The Crossing: The curious story of the first man to swim the English Channel by Kathy Watson. Biography of Captain Matthew Webb and his crossing of the English Channel.
30. Nine Ways to Cross a River, Midstream Reflections on Swimming and Getting There from Here by Akiko Busch about her swim across the Hudson River in 2001.
31. Haunts of the Black Masseur, The Swimmer as a Hero by Charles Sprawson explores the heart and mind of an open water swimmer.
33. Crossing, The Extraordinary Story of the First Man to Swim the English Channel by Kathy Watson about Captain Matthew Webb’s crossing in 1875.
34. Other Shores by Diana Nyad. Autobiography that shares the mindset of a professional marathon swimmer including stories behind her swims across Lake Ontario and around Manhatten Island, and plans for a Cuba-to-Florida swim are all covered in this book.
36. Nadando El Estrecho, Sus Orígenes Y Su Historia (Swimming the Strait, Its Origin and History) by International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame honoree Montserrat Tresserras Dou. A 287-page hard cover book is filled with hundreds of great photographs of swimmers in the Strait of Gibraltar (مضيق جبل طارق in Arabic or Estrecho de Gibraltar in Spanish) that separates Spain from Morocco, Africa.
38. Open Water Swimming in South Africa by Tony Sellmeyer is an inspirational journal that includes articles, records, history and captivating stories from open water swimmers in South Africa.
39. Fair Sport: The History of Sport at the Canadian National Exhibition, 1879-1977 Inclusive by A.W. “Bill” Leveridge with stories about George Young, Ernst Vierkoetter, Herman Willemse, Abou Heif, Cliff Lumsdon, Greta Andersen and Judith de Nys.
40. Captain Webb and 100 years of Channel Swimming by Margaret A. Jarvis.
41. Take It to the Limit by Julie Ridge, an actress and endurance athlete was the first to swim twice around Manhattan Island, provides a guide to maximize athletic performance and personal satisfaction from that performance.
Of course, if you prefer watching movies, there are many inspirational and entertaining open water swimming movies:
43. Open Water Swimming by Steven Munatones, a comprehensive overview of the history and contemporary times of open water swimming.
Welcome, a French movie released in March 2009, is a story about a young Kurdish refugee in France who immigrates to England by swimming across the English Channel. The adventure across the English Channel is interspersed between two love stories and a struggle against immigration laws, red tape and enforcement.
Movie about a former open water swimming champion who was wrongly accused of doping in the pro 57K Santa Fe-Coronda Marathon and who tries to re-gain his title and clear his name. World marathon swimming champion and Olympian Edith van Dijk plays herself in the movie as do other actual professional marathon swimmers.
After decades of laboring as a Glasgow shipbuilder, Frank Redmond, a no-nonsense 55-year-old working-class man, suddenly finds himself laid off. For the first time in his life, he is without a job or a sense of direction, and he’s too proud to ask for guidance.
His best mates – rascally Danny, timid Norman and cynical Eddie – are there for him, but Frank still feels desperately alone. An offhand remark from Danny inspires Frank to challenge himself. Already contemplating the state of his relationships with loving wife Joan and all-but-estranged son Rob, Frank is determined to shore up his own self-confidence.
He will attempt the near impossible – swimming the English Channel. As Frank plunges headlong into his new daily life, his astonished friends are swept along with him. Prodded by stalwart fish-and-chips shop owner Chan, the men support Frank, train him – and keep their goal secret from his wife and son. Frank is unable to confide in those closest to him, but as the big day and moment of truth draw near, there is a sea change. Frank’s family confronts him, and he realizes that he must repair his strained family ties. As Frank and those closest to him discover – or re-discover – reserves of love and compassion, he realizes that he is also swimming from one part of his life to another.
Two Swimmers, a 23-minute British documentary released in 2007 that explores the bond between an athlete and his coach as they attempt the English Channel in 2005 and the dramatic events that follow.
With his swimmer struggling, the coach jumps into the Channel to swim last 100 meters to the French shore.
Together they completed their challenge, but as they returned to the boat, the coach has a sudden heart attack and died in Tim’s arms.
As director Steven Sander described about his film, “Rarely are challenges in life achieved alone and I hope that a little of the intense spirit of cooperation and the coach/athlete bond is conveyed in this film.”
Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association