Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Henry Charteris Hooper was the first person to swim from Robben Island to the South African mainland on Cape Town. His crossing in 1909 took him in 6 hours 55 minutes.

But it took another 65 years before a female duplicated Hooper’s famed crossing. Marie van der Merwe, a 12-year-old South African, swam from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand in March 1974, completing the tandem swim in 2 hours 31 minutes, swimming together with Hugh Tucker and Peter Bales in 16°C (60.8°F) water.

Captain Matthew Webb was the first person to swim across the English Channel. His breaststroke crossing in 1875 took him 21 hours 45 minutes.

But it took another 51 years before a female duplicated Captain Webb’s iconic swim. Gertrude Ederle, an Olympic champion, crossed the 21-mile Channel in 1926 in 14 hours 30 minutes.

Stewart Evans was the first person to swim between the Farallon Islands and the California mainland. His crossing in 1967 took him 13 hours 44 minutes.

But it took another 48 years before a female duplicated Evans’ pioneering crossing. Kimberley Chambers, a 38-year-old former ballerina, completed a 30-mile swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge in 2015 in 17 hours 12 minutes.

While women may have not had the same opportunities for training and challenging themselves in such endurance events as their male counterparts in the 19th and 20th century, I can imagine that there may be at least as many unprecedented open water swims completed by women in the 21st century as there will be completed by men,” predicted Steven Munatones.

Look what Lynne Cox did for the sport of ice swimming and the standards that are being set by women like Sarah Thomas and Chloë McCardel. I seriously doubt it will take the women of the 21st century another 48 or 51 or 65 years to replicate the feats of their male open water colleagues. Times have certainly changed.”

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association