Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
Even since Tom Burgess competed in both water polo and open water swimming, the two sports have been linked together with interesting personalities.
Before Burgess became the second man to swim the English Channel in 22 hours 35 minutes in 1911 on his 16th attempt and later trained Gertrude Ederle to become the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926, he won a bronze medal for his native Great Britain at the 1900 Paris Olympics where he also finished fourth in the 4 km freestyle.
Duke Kahanamoku, a 5-time Olympic medalist and alternate for the USA water polo team at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, spent a lifetime in the open water promoting surfing, swimming and lifesaving with one of the most enduring legacies in the open water. Kahanamoku can be easily defined as the quintessential waterman.
His contemporary, Johnny Weissmuller won one of his six Olympic medals in water polo (at the 1924 Olympics) and is another quintessential waterman who later starred as the iconic Tarzan of Hollywood fame.
As the generations passed since Kahanamoku and Weissmuller, numerous water polo players and coaches from Penny Dean and Tomi Stefanovski to Ned Denison and Adam Walker have continued to extend their athletic skills to the open water.
English Channel and Catalina Channel record holder Penny Dean also coached water polo at Pomona College in Southern California for over 25 years before her retirement.
Macedonia’s Tomi Stefanovski who took up professional marathon swimming after his water polo player career. He not only won the famed 34 km Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean at the age of 43, but also was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in the Class of 2016.
Former water polo goalie Ned Denison completely transformed his aquatic orientation from vertical to horizontal as he began a global tour ice swimming, marathon swimming and prison island swimming. The Triple Crowner also established Cork Distance Week and the Triple Break as well as received the 2013 Poseidon Award and was nominated for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
The most well-known water polo player-turned-open waterist is undoubtedly Adam Walker, the first British athlete to achieve the Oceans Seven. Ocean Walker, as he is known, teaches open water swimming camps and clinic around the world while serving as a Counsellor for One Young World and as an Ambassador of the Royal Life Saving Society.
And one of the oldest channel swimmers in the world, 73-year-old Toshio Tominaga of Japan completed a very fast crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan in 9 hours 58 minutes this summer. It was the realization of his life-long dream.
Most recently, Mickey Helps completed a one-way solo English Channel crossing. But after a short break, the 50-year-old former water polo player headed back to England from France on a two-way attempt. Helps did not ultimately make a double crossing, but he fought valiantly for over 41 hours in the Channel before he was pulled within 1,200 yards of the English coast.
“Mickey and I first met in 2007 training for our first English Channel crossing. At the time, it was probably the most successful year for water polo players crossing the English Channel as Mickey, Mark Bayliss, Greg Dodds and me all made our first solo crossings that year,” explained Jim Boucher, a former water polo player and coach. “In fact, Greg was in Mickey’s crew for his epic two-way attempt. I also met one of my star players at the University of Surrey, Cianan Mann, while observing his school’s English Channel relay.
“Water polo players tend to be good competitive open water swimmers as well as excellent marathon swimmers,” said former water polo player Steven Munatones. “They tend to excel when physicality in the water is involved and are used to swimming aggressively in close proximity to others. Additionally, their team mentality is very well-suited to establishing a team mindset on a marathon or channel swim. Water polo players also seem to be very capable of adapting to dynamic and unexpected conditions in the water, like Mickey Helps proved last week.”
Other former water polo players in the contemporary global open water swimming community include the following individuals:
* Niko Nestor, the first Macedonian and Soviet bloc swimmer to cross the English Channel and a former professional marathon swimmer
* Bill Ireland who has competed in more open water events over the last four decades than any other American
* Joseph Locke, a Harvard University water polo player who later took seven attempts to complete a Farallon Island crossing as well as an English Channel, Catalina Channel, and Strait of Gibraltar crossings
* John Chung, a member of the Deep Enders and Ventura Deep Six that was selected as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* Doug Woodring of University of California Berkeley who created the Ocean Recovery Alliance and organizes numerous ocean swims including the Cold Half and Clean Half Extreme Marathon Swims in Hong Kong
* Tracy Grilli, a 57-year-old member of the Mighty Mermaids open water relays and Fighting Flamingos water polo team
* Samantha Sears, a water polo coach in Huntington Beach, California and member of the record-setting Long Beach Swim Focus Catalina Channel Relay (6 hours 53 minutes)
* Klaus Barth, a German Olympian and triathlete who finished fourth at the 1986 Hawaiian Ironman World Championships while coaching swimmers, water polo players and open water swimmers in Long Beach, California
* Ellery McGowan, a water polo coach in Surrey, England who won world titles at the 2010, 2012 and 2016 World Winter Swimming Championships and completed a number of marathon swims and English Channel relays
* Jim Anderson of Honolulu, Hawaii who organized the 1999 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships, the 2000 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, and the Hawaiian Christmas Looong Distance Invitational Rough-H2O Swim as well as served as an observer and consultant for many international open water events
* Mustapha Larfaoui, a water polo player in his native Algeria, was the former president of FINA who helped add the 10 km marathon swim to the Olympic calendar
* Clark Bird, a water polo player in California, is one of the few people to complete a north-to-south crossing of Lake Tahoe
* Cornel Marculescu, a 1964 Olympic water polo player for Romania, enabled and guided FINA to add the 10 km marathon swim to the Olympics at the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympics
* Owen Hughes, Ciaran Farrelly, Tadhg Murphy, Aindriu McGuigan, Ronan Flood, and George Dunne participated in an English Channel relay appropriately called the Irish Water Polo Players
* John Reagan from New York won a 19.8-mile stage of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim in New York and competed in the 2012 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim
* Vicko Šoljan has been involved in water polo since 1951 and was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame after founding the Croatian Long Distance Swimming Federation and the Faros Maratón in 1976
* Eilís Burns is a highly acclaimed open water coach and swimmer after playing six years on the Irish National water polo team
* John Mix of the University of California Santa Barbara continues to participate in open water event after founding and running FINIS, one of the leading swimming equipment design houses and manufacturers
* Tim Fitzpatrick continues to compete in ocean, sea, bay events for the third consecutive decade
* Jay Peluso of the University of Massachusetts continues coaches and organizes triathlon and open water events
* Dave Holscher of the Night Train Swimmers continues to organize, plan and oversee ultra marathon swimming charity events
* Kerby Lewis, Matt Judge and Emre Erdogan from Iona College water polo completed a tandem swim across the Strait of Gibraltar
* Bill Leach, a 1976 Olympian who played on the USA national water polo team and for the University of California Irvine is a USA Triathlon-certified and open water swimming race director
* Kevin Joyce continues to coach open water swimmers and water polo players in Southern California
* Mark Bayliss became the first person to complete the Enduroman Arch to Arc from London to Paris by swimming across the English Channel without a wetsuit
* Ryan McDonald from Concordia University is a water polo player, lifeguard and biathlete who did The Mega Colossus
* Nick Sullivan of the University of California Irvine is a biathlete and lifeguard from Huntington Beach, California who has won the The Mega Colossus four times
* Melissa Karjala from the University of Michigan raised US$75,000 on a record 6-woman two-way English Channel relay of 18 hours 55 minutes
* Kathleen Le of the U.S. Air Force Academy continues to compete in triathlons and open water swims in San Francisco Bay
* Nick Burton of the U.S. Air Force Academy competes in ocean swims
* Ryan Ballance of the University of California Santa Barbara who continues to do marathon swims in Florida [shown above]
* Steven Munatones completed a number of unprecedented marathon swims and professional marathon races and was a Harvard University teammmate of Dr. Oz
* Vicky Miller who has both an English Channel crossing and a North Channel crossing to her name
* Finbarr Hedderman who is both an ice swimmer as well as a prolific marathon swimmer (S.C.A.R. + English Channel + North Channel)
* Dave Scott of University of California Davis was a 6-time Ironman Triathlon champion and 2-time Waikiki Roughwater Swim age-group champion
* Miquel Sunyer of Spain who is a marathon swimmer
* Éva Risztov of Hungary is the 2012 London Olympic 10 km marathon swim gold medalist
* Ricardo Ratto of Brazil is an Olympic 10K Marathon Swim official and FINA referee
* Louis Martin of France won 2 Olympic gold medals in swimming and an Olympic bronze medal in water polo at the 1900 Olympic Games
* John Arthur Jarvis of Great Britain won 2 Olympic gold medals in the 1000m and the 4000m freestyle events and in water polo at the 1900 Paris Olympics
* Ross Edgley is a British water polo player and creator of strongman swimming
* Shane Moraghan of Ireland achieved the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming
* Aude Lemaire-Hamel of Canada run open water swimming camps in Costa Rica
* Greg ‘Buc’ Buchanan runs junior lifeguard programs in San Diego, California>
* Joseph L. Bruno is an early pioneer of swims in San Francisco Bay, California
* Paul Eugen Dorin Georgescu of Romania won the 500m race at the 2019 Ice Swimming Arctic Cup in Murmansk, Russia
* Bob Duenkel was the long-time curator of the International Swimming Hall of Fame
* Stathis Avramidis, Ph.D. was the winner of the 2009 Paragon Award for Aquatic Safety
* Edward Temme was the first person to complete a crossing of the English Channel in both ways
* Pearl Simonelli is a Catalina Channel swimmer
And there are thousands more dual water polo-open water swimmers around the world. Arguably, hundreds of thousands of former players enjoy swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers and bays … including the current water polo team at the University of California San Diego.
Under long-time head coach Denny Harper, the young men conduct three hours of ocean swimming, soft sand beach running, push-ups, core exercises and a myriad other physical feats during their morning practices [see photos below]. The UCSD Beach Tour is conducted at Mission Beach, Coronado Beach, La Jolla Beach, Windansea Beach, Pacific Beach and includes swims around the Scripps Pier and Crystal Pier.
Watch for a few of these players to continue the legacy set by Tom Burgess,
Duke Kahanamoku, and Johnny Weissmuller.
Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association