The WOWSA Awards, sponsored by the World Open Water Swimming Association, is an annual recognition of the world’s best open water swimmers, coaches, crew members, pilots, writers, associations, services and products in four different categories.

The nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year are always an heroic and courageous group of individuals with exceptionally inspirational exploits, histories and lifestyles. This year presents an especially accomplished field of individuals.

The WOWSA Awards are not necessarily only for the best athletes, but are meant to honor the men and women who:

* best embody the spirit of open water swimming,
* possess the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and
* have most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in any calendar year.

The 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year nominees include:

1. Alexander Brylin, Ice Swimmer from Siberia (Russia)
2. Damián Blaum, Around The World Marathoner (Argentina)
3. Darren Miller, Achieving the Oceans Seven (U.S.A.)
4. Doug Woodring, Energetic Environmentalism (Hong Kong)
5. Glen Christiansen, Recovering from Trauma (Sweden)
6. Jim McConica, Ageless Wonder (U.S.A.)
7. Jose Diaz, Horizontes Sin Fronteras (Spain)
8. Mally Richards, 60 Years In The Making (South Africa)
9. Oussama Mellouli, Olympic Ambassador (Tunisia)
10. Pádraig Mallon, Extraordinaire Event Director & Swimmer (Ireland)
11. Rafael Gutiérrez Mesa, Getting Things Strait in Gibraltar (Spain)
12. Thomas Lurz, World Champion (Germany)
13. Tomi Stefanovski, Mastering the Traversee (Macedonia)
14. Vojislav Mijić, Tirelessly Resilient Race Director (Serbia)
15. Wayne Riddin, Midmar Mile Miracle (South Africa)

1. Alexander Brylin, Ice Swimmer (Russia)
Alexander Brylin is always pushing his body to the nether regions. In addition to helping organize for years and finally participate in the 6-day Bering Strait Swim between Russia and Alaska, Brylin swam an incredible 2,200 meters straight in 0.3°C water with the air at – 30°C at the Russian Winter Swimming Championships in Tyumen. Seemingly impervious to the cold, the strong-willed, physically hardened ice swimmer is supreme at water temperatures just above freezing. For his love of this extreme open water swimming niche, for his understanding of how to swim safely and avoid submission to hypothermia, for his ability to bring ice swimmers together from around the world, Alexander Brylin is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

2. Damián Blaum, Around the World Marathoner (Argentina)
He pushes and pushes. Damian Blaum knows his profession requires him to be constantly uncomfortable, either too cold or too warm. Stings and soreness, jet lag and discomfort are his calling cards as he travels the world as a professional marathon swimmer. After 8 tough marathon swims, Blaum was crowned the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix champion. His income depends on racing success, he races his friends and colleagues while competing together with his wife Esther Nunez Morena. Win or lose, his wide smile is his trademark, his positive attitude is his fuel. For his breakthrough year as the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix world champion, for his participation in races around the world always accommodating to race directors and fans, for his upbeat spirit second to none, Damian Blaum is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

3. Darren Miller, Achieving the Oceans Seven (U.S.A.)
7 up, 7 down. It was a perfect score in 2013 for Darren Miller, a former sprint freestyler. The personable banker and motivational speaker achieved the Oceans Seven like no one else in history: each one of his channel attempts resulted in success. But his personal goal to become the fourth person in history to cross the world’s 7 mightiest channels was augmented by his drive to raise money for those less fortunate than himself. Completing his charity swims on a global scale, Miller spread good cheer and accomplished plenty of good while motivating others to achieve their potential. For his road well-traveled with hypothermia threats, for his fund-raising efforts, and for his constant good cheer in spite of constant physiological risks, Darren Miller is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

4. Doug Woodring, Environmentalist and Ocean Advocate (Hong Kong)
Improving the marine environment is in Doug Woodring’s blood. Woodring is relentless in seeking practical solutions to the escalating problem of pollution. He just does not lecture and preach mindful living; he sets practical examples of how to reduce plasticity that are being increasingly replicated at sporting events and open water swims. In addition to his trend-setting Clean Half Extreme Marathon Swim and Sheko Challenge, Woodring has also introduced the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, The Ocean Walk, and Aerial Art to Hong Kong, as well as the Cold Half Extreme Marathon Swim, The Five and The Cold Standard. By enabling athletes and their supporters to enjoy a variety of competitive sports while learning how to adopt a green mindset, Woodring fulfills his two primary missions. For his unwavering and creative focus on resolving the growing menace of marine pollution, and for tying open water swimming with environmental solutions, Doug Woodring is a worthy nominee for the 2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

5. Glen Christiansen, Recovering From Trauma (Sweden)
Glen Christiansen was crumbled at the bottom of the stairs with blood oozing from his ears, nose, and eyes. For nearly 4 weeks, he was in a coma, and for weeks later he remained in intensive care with a bacterial infection. When he woke, his entire left side was paralyzed and he could not talk. Yet the 1980 Swedish Olympian was not about to prove his doctor’s prognostications correct by never talking or walking again. Instead, he acted like a warrior and went to battle with his weakened and traumatized body. He had a tremendous spirit and will to improve and return to coaching swimmers. Within 6 months, Christiansen was back coaching and competing in the open water against people half his age. For his positive mindset, his inspiration to never give up in spite of traumatic physical setbacks, for his example of following his own advice as a coach and motivator, Glen Christiansen is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

6. Jim McConica, The Ageless Wonder (U.S.A.)
Records are meant to be broken and that is what Jim McConica does. In the pool and the ocean, domestically and internationally, from Anacapa Island to Santa Cruz Island, 62-year-old Jim McConica has been setting standards for decades. While his track record of success is impressive, his records will not last as long as his undeniable legacy of helping and motivating his peers and younger generations of swimmers. Day in and day out, McConica remains the inspiration in his home pool in Ventura, California and neighboring Pacific Ocean by working out and helping out. For his new world record set over 19 miles from Santa Cruz to the California mainland, for his indescribably fast, intense daily workouts that inspire others, for his undeniable leadership among pool and open water swimmers, both young and old, Jim McConica is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

7. Jose Diaz, Horizontes Sin Fronteras (Spain)
Nadandolibre is all about inclusion and passion. Based on the creation and passion of Jose Diaz, Nadandolibre does its absolute best to bring color, attention, and creativity to the sport of open water swimming. From newcomers to butterflyers, Diaz and his collaborators at Nadandolibre coach athletes, organize events, promote channel crossings, and enliven the sport through music, books, and online campaigns. His work elicits smiles and interest from a growing global audience. For his support of Hector Ramirez Ballesteros’ unprecedented Strait of Gibraltar’s butterfly crossing, for his open water DNA overflowing with enthusiasm, for his multi-talented creativity, Jose Diaz is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

8. Mally Richards, A Diamond in the Rough Water (South Africa)
Decade after decade, Mally Richards takes his traditional spot on the line-up for the SPAR River Mile Festival. He smiles, he waves, he acknowledges the competition. But after 60 years of attending and participating in the oldest open water swimming event in Africa, this year the 80-year-old swimmer stands alone in terms of longevity at a single event. Since he started participating as a teenager in 1947, he has set a standard and plays a role model of good living in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. For his unadulterated joy in swimming, for his goals to swim until he passes away, for his participating in open water events together with his son and grandsons, Mally Richards is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

9. Oussama Mellouli, Cross-over Champion (Tunisia)
He is arguably the most well-known swimmer in the world while serving as the role model of the entire Arabic-speaking world. The sole Olympic gold medalist from an Arab country in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, Oussama Mellouli is an icon. A cross-over athlete who has shared world championship and Olympic success both between the lines in chlorinated environs and along the shorelines in open water venues, Mellouli has achieved unprecedented aquatic success. Multi-lingual and multi-cultural, Mellouli is an ambassador like few others. Personable and eloquent on land, he is equal parts stamina, speed, strength, and savvy in the water. For his willingness to swim anywhere anytime, for the ambassadorial role he takes among the youth of the sport and race directors worldwide, for his incredible physical talents, Oussama Mellouli is a worthy nominee of the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

10. Pádraig Mallon, Extraordinaire Event Director & Swimmer (Ireland)
Pádraig Mallon works at a feverish pace year-round. Not only was the understated Irish personality busy swimming across the most notorious channel in the world, the North Channel from Ireland to Scotland, but he did so only 6 weeks after crossing the English Channel. If the water was cold, rough and jellyfish-strewn, Mallon was game. He also became Northern Ireland’s first certified ice swimmer and participated in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships. He also brings the joy and challenge of the open water to others: neoprene or bioprene, competitive or fitness. Mallon was one of the organisers of the 2013 Irish Marathon Swim Series and the multiple-event Camlough Lake Water Festival. For his commitment to the sport, for his unselfish attitude and joy in bringing others to the sport, and for his own athletic accomplishments in the cold, rough waters of the British Isles, Pádraig Mallon is a worthy nominee for the 2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

11. Rafael Gutiérrez Mesa, Getting Things Strait in Gibraltar (Spain)
He delivers smiles and helps achieve dreams. By safely escorting swimmers from one continent to another as president of the Asociación Cruce A Nado Del Estrecho De Gibraltar (Strait of Gibraltar Swimming Association), Rafael Gutiérrez Mesa provides many individuals from all walks of life their greatest opportunity for athletic achievement. Rafael plans, organizes, guides, and certifies solo and relay crossings – both neoprene and bioprene – of the Strait of Gibraltar. Year in and year out, he manages everything from the bureaucracy of the Spanish and Moroccan governments to providing beautiful commemorative charts of swimmer’s crossings. For his passion to help others realize their dreams, for his expertise in dealing with bureaucracies, for his ability to manage crossings by swimmers of every age, ability, background, and country, Rafael Gutiérrez Mesa is a worthy candidate for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

12. Thomas Lurz, World Champion (Germany)
It was unprecedented: 4 medals in 4 swims in 7 days. Over a cumulative total of 7 hours of mano-a-mano racing against the world’s best swimmers in Barcelona, Thomas Lurz proved why he is, at the advanced age of 33, the world’s fastest open water swimmer. Never in the history of the sport has anyone demonstrated such total mastery of all aspects of elite open water swimming against the best talent on the planet. Uncomplaining, driven and a glutton for punishment during training, good things have continued for the deserving professional swimmer. For his gold medal at the world championships in the 25 km, his gold medal in the 5 km Team Pursuit, his silver medal in the 10 km, his bronze medal in the 5 km over a span of 7 days, and a handful of other international victories throughout the year, Thomas Lurz is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

13. Tomi Stefanovski, Mastering the Traversee (Macedonia)
Tomi Stefanovski was the most unlikely of victors in the most prestigious and toughest professional race in the world, la Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean. A survivor of six surgeries, three on each shoulder, the 42-year-old masters swimming dynamo is a role model who is admittedly past his prime. But the love of the sport pushes him forward. The former water polo player has put in mega-mileage with over a decade on the professional marathon swimming circuit. But he remained confident in himself and never failed to be competitive. A stalwart to finish, but not a threat to win la Traversée, Stefanvoski proved everyone wrong. For his unlikely victory on the downside of his career, for his participation in professional marathon races on 3 continents, for his continuous joy of the sport while raising two daughters, Tomi Stefanovski is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

14. Vojislav Mijić, Tirelessly Resilient Race Director (Serbia)
He has been selflessly and tirelessly organizing open water swimming for decades and has done everything from swimming himself to promoting the race among the fastest swimmers on Earth. He has created safe, but challenging, fields of play from the 30 km professional marathon swim with the Plivački maraton Jarak-Šabac, to ice swims of 33 meters with the Epiphany Swimming for the Holy Cross of Honour. He pleads, he promises, he produces year after year after year. The chemical engineer always places the athletes first and foremost on his minds. For his deep passion for all types of open water swimming, for his grace under pressure at every event he organizes, for his willingness to serve in any capacity for the benefit of the athletes, Vojislav Mijić is a worthy candidate for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

15. Wayne Riddin, Midmar Mile Miracle (South Africa)
He constantly re-invests in the sport of swimming; he envisions a bright future in the sport and then creates an environment to make it a reality. He attracts 18,000 swimmers in a variety of amateur, charity, disabled and elite competitions in South Africa where there are only 6,000 competitive pool swimmers. The race director for the Midmar Mile does so much for the sport in his native South Africa. From timing systems to celebrities, from seeding events to hot spots, from aerial coverage to car give-aways, Riddin has set the highest standards in the sport. For his visionary innovation and aquapreneurial drive, for his constant commitment to give back to the sport of swimming, for his leadership in creating the most extravagant, wholesome open water swimming event, Wayne Riddin is a worthy nominee for the 2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

The previous recipients of the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year include:

* 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year – Randy Nutt (U.S.A.)
* 2009 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year – Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria)
* 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year – Marcos Díaz (Dominican Republic)
* 2011 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year – Jamie Patrick (U.S.A.)
* 2012 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year – Stephen Redmond (Ireland) shown above

Online voting takes place here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association