Photos of Lewis Pugh before his successful The Long Swim, a 49-day 560 km stage swim along the English Channel, courtesy of Kelvin Trautman.


Open water swimmers do channel swims, marathon swims, ice swims, ocean swims, stage swims, wild swims, and extreme aquatic adventures of all kinds and in all places.

For non-swimmers, pool swimmers and mostly everyone who exercises on dryland, open water swimmers are often asked why? “Why do you push yourself in such cold conditions, for so long, with so many sharks and jellyfish, at night against such waves and turbulence?

Their answers are sometimes difficult to fathom.

But the speakers and presenters at the 2018 WOWSA Talks & WOWSA Awards on November 9th – 10th at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California can eloquently answer the question why. They are articulate, engaging and entertaining as they explain their motivations.

To meet and listen to the following speakers, presenters and honorees at The Olympic Club, register here.

Lewis Pugh – UK
Swimming for Change
Lewis is a former maritime lawyer from the UK, one of the world’s leading ocean advocates from his home base in Cape Town, and an open water swimmer with a long list of unprecedented pioneering swims around the world. He delivers his message of ocean conservation to influential heads of states, top government officials, and millions of citizens around the world. In some cases, his pioneering swims have ultimately led to the creation of marine sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas and justified his designation as the United Nations Patron of the Oceans. He received the Presidential Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame and is an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. He is an unparalleled environmental campaigner via Speedo Diplomacy with a list of swims accomplished in the North Pole, Mount Everest, Antarctica, Maldives, and Scandinavia. He has been named a Young Global Leader, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of The Explorers Club, and Adventurer of the Year, and received the Order of Ikhamanga (Gold Class) in South Africa. He is a wildly popular speaker and author of Achieving the Impossible and 21 Yaks and a Speedo.

Shelley Taylor-Smith – Australia
Shattering the Gender Pay Gap In Open Water Swimming
Shelley is a professional marathon swimmer, coach, author, administrator, Olympic referee and motivational speaker based in Western Australia. She was the dominant marathon swimmer in the 1980’s and 1990’s when she was crowned the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation champion seven times and won the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim five times. She served for over 20 years on various FINA committees and helped administer the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. She is one of the few dual inductees as she was selected as an Honor Swimmers in both the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 1989) and International Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2008). She has been honored multiple times in Australia as the Australian Female Athlete of the Year, Australian Sports Medal recipient, two-time Australian of the Year finalist, and received the Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Aaron Peirsol – USA
Getting Wet
Aaron is a former competitive swimmer and current world record holder in the 200m backstroke. He is a 3-time Olympian and 7-time Olympic medalist (five gold medals + two silver medals). He has won 36 medals in major international competitions: 29 golds + 6 silvers + 1 bronze) spanning the Olympics and the World, Pan American and Pan Pacific Championships. Growing up a Junior Guard in Newport Beach, in his retirement, Aaron has revisited his love for the ocean, becoming an ambassador for marine conservation non-profit Oceana and competing in ocean swims from Newport Beach to Rio de Janeiro. Aaron is also an avid body surfer and paddler, and is currently developing a beach safety program in Costa Rica.

Kimberley Chambers – New Zealand
Making A Comeback, Step By Step
Kimberley from New Zealand has fought back from near-death experiences to become one of the world’s most accomplished marathon swimmers. The former ballerina now living in San Francisco shifted to swimming after rehabilitating from nearly having her leg amputated. She went on to achieve the Oceans Seven and was the first woman to complete a crossing to the Farallones Island in the world’s most densely populated area with Great White Sharks. She serves as a motivational speaker with popular stints at TED Conferences and at the United Nations. In addition to her corporate work at Adobe in Silicon Valley, she has focused the energy at raising millions of dollars for charitable causes together with the Night Train Swimmers. She has completed unprecedented relay, tandem crossings, and cross-border swims from Mexico to Israel, in lakes and down the California coast, and was selected as one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Women. A film on her life and comeback, KIM SWIMS, has been extremely well-received in dozens of film festivals across the United States.

Ben Lecomte – France
Transoceanic Swimming – From Tokyo to San Francisco [via video from Pacific Ocean]
Ben lives a life marrying adventure and risk with his love of swimming and focusing on a message of protecting the world’s oceans. The Frenchman is a transoceanic stage swimmer who completed a 5,980 km swim across the Atlantic Ocean in 73 days in 1998. Twenty years later, he is attempting a similar 8,721 km stage swim across the Pacific Ocean between Japan and California. Currently en route somewhere far from both the Japanese and American shores, he is conducting myriad scientific and research projects from his escort boat with a dedicated crew of researchers. They collect human physiological data as well as measure and observe waste plastic in the oceans far from shore.

Angel More – USA
Inspiring The Next Generation
Angel is a young, emerging endurance athlete from San Francisco. She is a marathon swimmer, triathlete, extreme athlete and Century cyclist who has raised $40,000 to date for the charitable organization Children International. She has completed a total of 51 Alcatraz Island crossings and participated in open water swims from South Africa to Sweden and England. She is the youngest person to complete the 10 km Bridge to Bridge Swim, 20 km Capitola Santa Cruz Pier-to-Pier Swim, 19.6 km Santa Barbara Channel, 34.2 km Lake Tahoe crossing, and the 12-mile Wharf to Wharf to Wharf Swim throughout her native California.

Ger Kennedy – Ireland
Flight Or Fight In The Ice
Ger is an extreme athlete, renowned ice swimmer, race director, coach and mentor from Ireland. In addition to organizing triathlon events and open water swimming races and expeditions from Dublin to Siberia to Antarctica, he came up with the concept of Ice Sevens and has compete in the International Ice Swimming Championships and International Winter Swimming Championships and World Cups in various countries. In addition to coaching and mentoring ice swimmers at all speeds, experiences and walks of life, he has completed 10 official Ice Miles, 3 unofficial Ice Miles, a 2 km Extreme Ice Mile in 0.5°C water, a Polar Ice Mile, two Ice Zero Miles, and swum 52 meters under the ice in -1ºC (30.2ºF) in northern Russia and is organizing the Antarctica 2020 International Swim. He is one of the few humans defined as an Ice Ironman, an individual who has completed a full Ironman triathlon and an Ice Mile.

Antonio Argüelles – Mexico
Why Swimming is My Rock
Antonio, the 2015 and 2017 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, is one of the leading channel and marathon swimmers in the world from his home base of Mexico City. In addition to completing a number of triathlons and marathon runs, he has completed the Oceans Seven at the age of 58 – the oldest to do so – and has twice achieved the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. He is an author, aquapreneur, and was named one of the Greatest Watermen in Open Water Swimming History and one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Men. His prolific career has led him to be voted as the 2015 and 2017 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year and inducted as an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2014). He is an inspiring figure in his native Mexico where he has frequently appeared on television and in numerous publications.

Jaimie Monahan – USA
2016 and 2017 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
Jaimie is as versatile as an open water swimmer came be. Based in New York, there is no one who flies more often or further than Jaimie to do channel swims, marathon swims, lake swims, night swims, ice swims, and compete in the International Ice Swimming Championships, International Winter Swimming Championships and World Cup circuit. She was inducted as an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2018) and was voted as the 2016 and 2017 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, and received the Barra Award for Best Overall Year and the Yudovin Award for Most Adventurous Swim by the Marathon Swimmers Federation. She is one of the few Ice Ironwomen who have completed both a full Ironman triathlon and Ice Mile. She was the first human in history to complete the Ice Sevens, is an Ice Zero Swimmer, has completed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, is a 3-time member of the 24-Hour Club, serves as President of the Lake Geneva Swim Association, and won the inaugural 40 Bridges Double Manhattan Island Swim.

Margarita Llorens Bagur – Spain
2017 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
Margarita never quits trying or helping others achieved their own goals. She serves as president of the Menorca Channel Swimming Association and is a member of the 24-Hour Club. Her 37-hour 73 km channel swim attempt, albeit unsuccessful, was so remarkable and inspiring that it was voted as the 2017 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year. In addition to her record-setting swims in the Menorca Channel environs, she has completed a number of marathon swims throughout Europe, from Spain to Greece.

Adrian Sarchet – Guernsey
Sea Donkeys – 2017 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year
Adrian is an advocate from Guernsey who has completed 1 km winter swims and 6 of 7 channels in the Oceans Seven in order to raise money for cancer research. He has completed crossings of the English Channel, Catalina Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, North Channel, Molokai Channel, and Tsugaru Channel in addition to Round Jersey and Round Guernsey solo circumnavigation swims. His North Channel training and success was the subject of the 90-minute documentary film Sea Donkey, the 2017 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year, produced James Harrison.

Marcia Benjamin – USA
Training A Marathon Swimmer In Your Masters Swimming Program
Marcia is a renowned coach and mentor of swimmers and triathletes at every level and age based in Oakland, California. She has received numerous awards (2013 Kerry O’Brien Coaches Award, 2006 Dorothy Donnelly Service Award, and 2000 and 2017 Peggy Lucchesi Awards) and represented Team USA at the 2013 Maccabiah Games. An accomplished masters swimmer in her own right, she runs what is deservedly described the most diverse group of swimmers on the planet at Oakland’s MEMO (Marcia’s Enthusiastic Masters of Oakland).

Megan Melgaard – USA
Swimming For Good, Swim Across America
Megan is considered to have one of the smoothest and efficient freestylers on the planet. She is an accomplished pool and open water swimmer, administrator, race director and aquapreneur based in Santa Monica, California. She has appeared in Hollywood movies both behind and in front of the camera, led water safety programs for Delta Airlines flight attendants, raced as a professional Ironman triathlete, cycled across America, and was a member of the USA Swimming national team, been a masters swimming world champion, is an Honorary Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer, and has coached swimmers and non-swimmers of all ages and abilities. She currently serves as the Director of Events and Safety for Swim Across America, the world’s most successful swimming charity organization.

Ross Edgley – UK
The Great British Swim
Ross is the British creator of Strongman Swimming who is a thoroughly educational and entertaining personality on social media and writings in GQ Magazine, Men’s Health, Telegraph, and Men’s Fitness. The former water polo player, he is considered one of the leading British fitness industry experts and co-founder of The Protein Works. He is currently engaging people from all walks of life through The Great British Swim, a 3,218 stage swim around the entirety of Great Britain.

Sally Minty-Gravett – Jersey
Rising To The Occasion
Sally Minty-Gravett, MBE from Jersey has earned a unique legacy for having completed an English Channel crossing once every decade for the past five consecutive decades (at 18 years in 1975, 28 years in 1985, 35 years in 1992, 48 years in 2005, and 56 years in 2013. She culminated her English Channel career with an epic 36 hour 26 minute 67.6 km two-way crossing between England and France at the age of 59 in 2016 for which she received the Churchill Award for Courage and was appointed as a Member of the British Empire. She coached swimmers of all ages and abilities for four decades and served as president of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club for 27 years. She was selected as one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Women and is an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, Class of 2005.

Pat Gallant-Charette – USA
Never Too Old
Pat is an unlikely accomplished marathon swimmer. After decades of working as a full-time nurse in her native state of Maine, she started to turn to channel swimming and has rewritten the record books in the Tsugaru Channel, North Channel, Molokai Channel, Lake Ontario, Lake Tahoe, Loch Ness, Catalina Channel and Windermere as the oldest female to cross these iconic bodies of water. Her successes do not come easy as her first attempts at these marathon swims are not always successful. Her DNF’s and successes in the English Channel have led to being awarded with the Rosemary George Award for the Most Meritorious Swim of the Year, the O’Clee Jubilee Award, and the Mercedes Gleitze Trophy by the Channel Swimming Association. To date, the 67-year-old has completed 6 of 7 channels in the Oceans Seven and 4 of 8 lakes in the Still Water Eight. She was named one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Women and one of 101 Movers and Shakers in the Open Water World as well as founded the Valentine’s Day Swim for your Heart charity event.

Evan Morrison – USA
LongSwims Database Insights and Data Analyses
Evan is a marathon swimmer, administrator, and technology developer based in San Francisco. As co-founder of the Marathon Swimmers Federation, he has created innovations such as the LongSwimsDB historical results databased, the TRACK.RS live GPS tracking system, the MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, the Marathon Swimmers Forum, and the MSF Documented Swims platform for authenticating independent marathon swims. Evan also serves as president of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, and as a selector for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. His record-setting swim across the Santa Barbara Channel from Santa Cruz Island was featured in the documentary film DRIVEN.

Nejib Belhedi – Tunisia
76 Hours of Solo Swimming
Nejib is an open water swimming icon in his native Tunisia where he completed a 120 km non-stop 76 hour 30 minutes swim from the Southern Salin Basin in Thyna-Sfax across the Gulf of Gabes and Boughrara Lake to Jlij Island just near Scorpion Tower, crossed the English Channel, completed a 1400 km stage swim along the entire coast of Tunisia, completed ice swims in 1°C water in Barbara Lake and 2°5C water in Oued Mallegue Lake, and completed a series of unprecedented boat-pulls up to a 1014 ton boat. His accomplishments have been voted as the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year and as the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

Ned Denison – USA
Chairman, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame [via Skype]
Ned is a marathon swimmer, channel swimmer, ice swimmer, administrator, and open water swimming clinician and mentor based in Cork, Ireland. In addition to founding and managing the Cork Distance Week that draws swimmers from around the world, he came up with such innovations as the Triple Crown of Prison Island Swims and the Torture Swim (which really implemented the concept of the Total Body Brain Confusion Swim). He serves as the Chairman of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and host of the annual induction and award ceremonies. He was named one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Men and was inducted as an Honor Contributor in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2012), the Vermont Open Water Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2017), and the Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2018) with 47 marathon swims completed. He received the Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award and was part of a committee which received the Poseidon Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Dan Simonelli – USA
Planning and Logistics of a Channel Swim
Dan from San Diego, California is arguably the most active marathon swimming crew member and escort kayaker with nearly 150 channel crossings in the last two years. He founded the Open Water Swim Academy and serves as race directors to coastal and channel swims. In addition to serving as an open water swimming coach, he is a selector for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and received the Streeter Award for Service to Marathon Swimming and the Barra Award for the Best Overall Year from the Marathon Swimmers Federation. He has completed two Oceans Seven channels, including a Catalina Channel crossing in January, and is a member of the La Jolla Cove Swim Club where he mentors many young and older channel swimmers.

Annette Kellerman – Australia
International Swimming Hall of Fame Exhibition
Annette began her aquatic career in Australia as a world record holder in the mile, but she left her influential footprint across Europe, the Americas and Oceania and South Africa. She attempted three crossings of the English Channel and then because a successful entrepreneur and a popular Hollywood silent film actress. She did numerous open water expeditions and unprecedented swims around the world, created her own swimsuit line, and pushed for swimming lessons for women and girls. Her remarkable life was depicted in the Hollywood movie, Million Dollar Mermaid, starring Esther Williams. She is an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 1965) and in the International Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 1974). She was called the Perfect Woman because of the similarity of her physical attributes to Venus de Milo.

Bryce Elser – USA
Athlete Progression to Podium Success
Bryce from Colorado Springs has led the USA national open water swim team to become the best national team on the planet with several world champions and an Olympic silver medalist. The former captain of the USC swim team, a perennial powerhouse in collegiate swimming, he is also an ocean lifeguard and received the Glen S. Hummer Award from USA Swimming for managing the 2015 FINA World Championship team.

Ram Barkai – South Africa
The Future of Ice Swimming [via video]
Ram is a visionary and administrator from Cape Town. His greatest legacy include founding and managing the International Ice Swimming Association, establishing the standards, rules and ratification system for Ice Miles and Ice Kilometers, organizing the International Ice Swimming World Championships. He has completed marathon swims and ice swims from South Africa and the Sea of Galilee to Alaska and Alcatraz. He has completed 11 Ice Miles, set a Guinness World Record ice swim in Antarctica, organized and completed the Patagonia Extreme Cold Water Challenge, appeared in the Superhuman Showdown TV series, and served as a race director for a popular ocean series in South Africa. He was selected as one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Men and is lobbying for the inclusion of the Ice Kilometer into the Winter Olympic Games.

Cameron Bellamy – South Africa
Achieving The Oceans Seven [via video from Barbados]
Cameron is a South African adventurer and entrepreneur currently living in San Francisco. He has created Ubunye Challenge, a successful charitable organization, and became the first African Oceans Seven swimmer at the age of 36. In addition to his channel swims, he has rowed across the Indian Ocean, cycled across China and India and Colombia, cycled across the UK from its southernmost tip to its northernmost tip, and attempted a 96 km circumnavigation swim around Barbados in which he swam for over 27 hours and 66 kilometers.

Brent Rutemiller – USA
Special Exhibit on Annette Kellerman
Brent started a career as a successful swim coach and has branched out to become one of the most influential power brokers in the aquatics community. After leading Sports Publications Inc. that publishes Swimming World Magazine for 33 years, he acquired the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2017. While serving as the dual CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Swimming World Magazine, he is in a unique position to tie the past with contemporary times and swimming’s future. In addition to publishing SWIM Magazine, Swimming Technique, Water Polo Scoreboard, and The AquaZoids, and producing The Morning Show, he is also author of Below the Surface, a look at the administrative side of competitive swimming.

Jessi Harewicz – Canada
Circumnavigation Swims
Jessi is an emerging marathon and channel swimmer from western Canada who has completed cold-water circumnavigation marathon swims around Mercer Island in the state of Washington and Bowen Island in British Columbia, including a 33 km circumnavigation in 21 hours in 12°C water. She has also completed swims across the English Channel and Catalina Channel in California and the Georgia Strait in British Columbia and was selected as one of the World’s 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Woman.

David Holscher – USA
Night Train Swimmers
David is one of the first members of Night Train Swimmers who crossed the English Channel and participated in a Farallon Islands relay.
He has done short (1.6 km RCP Tiburon Mile), medium (15 km Strait of Bonifacio), long (32.3 km Catalina Channel) and longer (San Francisco to Santa Barbara Relay and 367 km California Coastal Relay) swims.

Jamie Patrick – USA
2011 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
Jamie swims, escorts, crews, and organizes. He completed a 31-hour Swimming California charity swim down the Sacramento River, created the Adventure Swim Contest, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, hosted Jamie’s Swim Camp, Jamie’s Swim Camp III, The Lake Tahoe Edition and Swim Camp Catalina. He founded the Lake Tahoe Swimming Society, appeared on a Universal/NBC television special, and crewed for Sarah Thomas’ 168.3 km 67 hour 16 minute Century Swim in Lake Champlain.

Poliana Okimoto – Brazil
2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
Poliana was the Athlete of the Year in Brazil (Premio Brasil Olimpico), the FINA Open Water Swimming Female Athlete of the Year, Swimming World Magazine’s Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year, Olympic 10 km marathon swim bronze medalist, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2018), 6-time FINA World Swimming Championship medalist, 2-time Pan American Games gold medalist, 3-time Olympian, and the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup champion.

Adam Skolnick – USA
Award-winning Journalist for The New York Times
Adam has written about travel, culture, human rights, sports, and the environment for The New York Times, Playboy, Outside,,, Men’s Health, Wired, and Longreads, among others. He’s the author of the critically-acclaimed book, ONE BREATH: Freediving, Death and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits, and he’s covered open water swimming several times for the New York Times, writing features on Antonio Argüelles as he became the seventh ever to complete the Oceans Seven, Kimberley Chambers and her attempt to swim the length of the Sacramento River, and a profile of Jim McConica and the Deep Enders, and their triumphant relay of an iconic channel swim in Southern California.

Steven Munatones – USA
Tactics and Strategies Used at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim
Steven was a competitive swimmer and water polo player who won the World Long Distance Swimming Championship and pioneered 5 swims in Japan. He served as a 9-time USA Swimming national team coach and created brands and terms in the open water swimming world from Oceans Seven to the Daily News of Open Water Swimming. He is an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Class of 2002) and received the Poseidon Award and the Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He helped establish open water swimming for intellectually disabled swimmer and was the Technical Delegate at the Special Olympic World Summer Games. He is an author, national championship race director and FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee member and continues to give speeches on the sport.

Listening and learning from all these luminaries will be a true honor and joy,” says Quinn Fitzgerald, the Swim Commissioner of The Olympic Club.

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