Stephen Redmond, Asociación Cruce A Nado Del Estrecho De Gibraltar, Ricardo Ratto, David O’Brien, Mickey Pittman and John Pittman, Richard Broer, Tamara Bruce, David Barra, and Colin Hill were all honored by their peers and fans.
Who were these luminaries of the sport? Read below.
Stephen Redmond, Ireland
“He got down on his knees and prayed with every fiber in his body.”
Stephen Redmond desperately needed help.
“After three previous attempts at the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan – none of which came remotely close to finishing – Stephen was at his wit’s end. With a growing number of doubters and his die-hard group of supporters wondering how his last and final attempt would end, Redmond asked for divine assistance. His road to the Oceans Seven had not been easy, and the end was torturously even more difficult.”
On all his previous attempts, the currents, eddies and tides in Japan had pushed him everywhere – left, right and backwards – but not straight towards his finish on Hokkaido. Round and round Redmond swam, but he had not yet even reached the halfway point across the 19.5 km turbulent channel in three tries.
“Psychologically, as he stood on the shores of Honshu before his attempts staring across the channel to his goal in Hokkaido, he looked like a beaten man with his shoulders slumped and his wide smile wiped from his face. But there was always a glimmer in his eye and a hint of hope in his voice. Stephen embodied the old saying, ‘Never say never.’“
While his mindset remained positive, he was not at his physiological peak. Redmond was most definitely not a fan of fish, seaweed and other marine edibles that were ubiquitous in Japanese meals. Instead of feasting on sushi and seaweed, Redmond existed solely on white bread and butter in the week leading up to his crossing.
The Tsugaru Channel was the last leg of his unprecedented completion of the Oceans Seven – and he was not about to quit so close to his goal.
Over the course of three long years, Redmond has already completed the English Channel (20 hours 1 minute in 2009 between England and France), North Channel (17 hours 17 minutes in 2010 between Scotland and Northern Ireland), Strait of Gibraltar (5 hours in 2011 between Spain and Morocco), Catalina Channel (12 hours 39 minutes in 2011 in Southern California), Cook Strait (12 hours 30 minutes in 2012 between New Zealand’s South and North Islands), Molokai Channel (22 hours 29 minutes in 2012 between Molokai and Oahu in Hawaii), but the three strikes against him in the Tsugaru Channel weighed heavily on his mind and his dwindling finances in the summer of 2012.
Finally, on his last day in Japan with his spirit nearly dashed and time literally running out, Redmond received a call from Captain Mizushima, his local escort pilot. While the two men could not speak each other’s language, they both understood the genuine passion they held in their hearts. “We can try one more time,” Captain Mizushima suggested to Redmond.
Redmond was already packed to head home to Ireland, but true to his nature, he was ready to give it one last shot.
12 hours 45 minutes later across a channel that seemed calmed by fortuitous divine intervention, Redmond swam from Honshu to Hokkaido and became the first person in history to achieve the Oceans Seven. He rightly so became a celebrity and inspiration to many overnight.*
The former rugby player and triathlete simply explained his stubbornness and achievement. “It’s not until you leave Ireland that you realise how important it is to be Irish. You tell an Irish person that they can’t do something and they’ll do everything they can to prove you wrong.”
The Cork (Ireland) resident also attempted to swim 50 miles from Ireland to Wales in 2013 in a charity swim on behalf of the RNLI, and became the first person to swim around treacherous Fastnet Rock, a small island in the Atlantic Ocean and the most southerly point of Ireland, in 12 hours 28 minutes in 2012.
Redmond uses mantras of his children while tackling the channels around the world. “I use anything that gives me a mental edge. Marathon swimming is about as close as you can get to death while you are alive here on Earth. You lose all sense of perception while you are swimming in such difficult conditions,” said the Irish swimmer who typically traverses channels at a 48-52 strokes per minute pace.
“What you are trying to achieve is something very, very out there, but you know you can do it. It is a real test of the head and the body.”
“We will be forever touched by the courage and the depth of character that Stephen showed. He is almost mythical in a way, but he is a real-world hero. Stephen boiled down the essence of humanity and demonstrated how powerful dreams can be,” recalls Munatones about the documentary film. “His story of Defeating Oceans Seven is so compelling. His adventures around the world were riddled with defeats, saddled with pain. Nothing was never a given. But his ultimate triumph was beautifully captured by the crew of Red Bull Media House who produced this film. Their artistry with the cameras was nearly as magical to observe as was Stephen’s swim. Their studio was a rocking boat in the middle of a turbulent channel, constantly buffeted by winds and waves. As long as Stephen kept swimming, Wolfgang Merkel and his film crew kept rolling. They could not plan for conditions that always presented the unexpected.”
Asociación Cruce A Nado Del Estrecho De Gibraltar, Spain
Imagine taking calls and emails from swimmers of all ages and abilities around the world – all throughout the year.
They all want to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar – one of the world’s most iconic waterways – and they want to do it roughly at the same time, at least during June through October.
“Rafael Gutiérrez Mesa and his colleagues of the Asociación Cruce A Nado Del Estrecho De Gibraltar – including Antonio Gil Bravo, Antonio Montiel Martin, Fernando Diaz Piñero, Sebastian Sanchéz Rios, and pilots Antonio Montiel and Sebastian Sánchez – deal with them and their goal to swim between Spain and Morocco at the entrance of the Mediterrean Sea,” says Munatones.
“Collectively, the Asociación Cruce A Nado Del Estrecho De Gibraltar deftly manages tides, government authorities, marine traffic, personalities, schedules and expectations will professionalism, passion and care with requests coming from Spain, South Africa, England, America, Peru, Morocco, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Denmark, Rumania, Italy, France, Germany, Chile, Puerto Rico, Luxembourg, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Australia, Gibraltar, Panama, Israel, Slovakia, Belgium, the Philippines, Cuba, Portugal, Brazil, Venezuela, Taiwan, India, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Greece, Iran, Serbia, Austria, Croatia, Canada, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Guatemala, Switzerland, Uruguay, Japan, Sweden, Turkey and elsewhere around the world.”
The swimmers from various cultures and walks of life ultimately leave with a warm smile and a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude due to the hospitality, safety precautions, and expertise of this hardy group of passionate channelistas.
“They help deliver smiles and achieve dreams by safely escorting swimmers from one continent to another in one of the Oceans Seven channels. The Strait of Gibraltar Swimming Association provides the opportunity for many individuals from all walks of life to achieve their greatest career athletic achievement or one of their life’s most memorable challenges. They plan, guide, and certify solo and relay crossings – both neoprene and bioprene – of the Strait of Gibraltar year in and year out. They manage everything from the bureaucracy of the Spanish and Moroccan governments to providing beautiful commemorative charts of swimmer’s crossings.“
Ned Denison explains the well-deserved honor of being inducted in the Hall of Fame. “The magic between two continents is further enhanced by the Rock and the Atlas mountains as well as the strategic importance of the opening to the Mediterranean. The shortest distance is from Punta Oliveros in Spain to Punta Cires in Morocco, a total distance of 14.4 km. More than 80 years of swimming have shown that the strong currents best support 16.5 km attempts from Tarifa to Punta Cires and depending on speed and conditions – landing along the coast to the south east for swims up to 22 km.”
Ricardo Ratto, Brazil
“Ricardo Ratto lives and breathes open water,” says Munatones.
“He studies currents and tides. He knows how to set courses and anchor turn buoys in horrific conditions. He knows the implications of split times and stroke rates. He knows well how to identify and officiate impeding of one swimmer by another.
He can talk all day and night about the sport – and he can do it intelligently so everyone can pick up another nugget of information or history.
Without question, Ricardo’s passion, experience and knowledge were among the reasons why he was selected to officiate at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in London.
Whether he is in an escort boat, safety craft, on the shore, on dryland, in classrooms, or in technical meetings, Ricardo is a well-known, very well respected, extraordinarily knowledge presence among his peers and in the global swimming community.”
Ratto has been a certified FINA open water swimming official for 17 years (since 1999) and served as an International Technical Official in the XXX Olympic Games – London 2012 as well annually as a course and technical official at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka (2001), Montreal (2005), Melbourne (2007) and Rome (2009), at the FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships in Seville (2008), Roberval (2010) and Setúbal (2012), at the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup events in Rio de Janeiro (1998), Brasília (2001, 2002, 2003), Belém do Pará (2006) and Santos (2008, 2009, 2010), and as a FINA Safety Delegate at the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup races in Roberval (2012).
In addition to his ubiquitous presence at international competitions, Ratto has served closer to his Brazilian homeland as the Official Director and Referee of the open water races at the Rio 2007 Pan American Games, as a referee in the South American Open Water Swimming Championships in João Pessoa (1998), Belém do Pará (2003), and São Paulo (2008).
For the Brazilian team that has been consistently ranked high among its global competition, Ratto has served as a coach and manager since 1996 at FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix races in the Maratón Internacional Hernandarias – Paraná (2011), Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli (2011 and 2012), International Jarak-Šabac Marathon Swim (2011), and Ohrid Lake Swimming Marathon (2011).
He was selected to be the Team Manager of the Rio de Janeiro delegation in the Olimpíadas Escolares, staged annually by COB (Brazilian Olympic Committee), the Open Water Swimming Coordinator for the Brazilian Swimming Federation from 1995 to 2006, and the Brazilian National Open Water Swimming Championships Coordinator.
In addition to his own participation in the 15 km Travessia Mar Grande Salvador and numerous oceans swim in Brazil, Ratto is a surfer and a lecturer with 3 masters degrees in the Biodynamics of Human Movement (his dissertation was a Comparative Analysis Between Front Crawl Stroke and Surf Paddling Stroke), a Science of Human Motricity, and Masters of Business Administration in Sports Management and Public Management.
David O’Brien, Australia
In an emergency in Sydney, David O’Brien is a fire fighter people surely want to see on the front lines.
The Senior Emergency Services Officer is not only a Fire Safety Specialist, but is also a Helicopter Rescue Crewman and an Offshore Marine Rescue Crewman with 20 years of dedicated community service.
With first responder experience in fires, rescues, hazardous incidents, marine ship-to-shore emergencies, and aerial operations, O’Brien is courageous and literally a lifesaver.
That is not surprising given his 26-year athletic career where O’Brien was the first Australian athlete to represent his country internationally in 3 separate disciplines: pool swimming, surf lifesaving, and marathon swimming.
Among his many achievements in domestic and international surf lifesaving events and in the pool, O’Brien also was honored by the Rottnest Channel Swim Honour Board and was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for his contributions.
He was introduced to swimming at a young age and progressed from a successful junior pool swimming career into surf lifesaving, open water swimming and marathon swimming.
Chris Guesdon, chairman of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, describes his fellow Australian.
“David O’Brien is a much heralded elite Australian marathon swimmer with a remarkable career at the top level of world racing. David was for years Australia’s top and fastest marathon swimmer. Because of his successes and leadership qualities, he was named as Captain of the gold medal winning Australian national open water swimming team at the FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships.”
O’Brien’s career had numerous highlights:
• NSW State Open 400/800/1500m freestyle pool swimming champion 1985 – 1986
• Australian Open Surf Belt National champion 1988 – SLSA Australia Wanda Beach NSW
• Australian National Surf Lifesaving Team Captain – Trans Tasman Test to New Zealand 1989
• Australian Open Water 15 km national open water swimming champion 1989
• Australian National marathon swim champion 25 km 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994
• Australian National Open Water swimming champion 10 km 1992, 1993, and 1994
• FINA World Ranking in Top 10 in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994,and 1995
• USA National 15 km champion 1991 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
• 1991 Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli champion in 6 hours 48 minutes in Italy
• 1991 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 25 km bronze medalist in Perth
• 1994 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 25 km gold medalist in Rome
• 1995 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships 25 km gold medalist in Atlanta USA
• 19.7 km Rottnest Channel Swim 4-time winner in 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995 in Western Australia
• 2011 World Police & Fire Games 9 medals won in pool and open water swimming in New York
Mickey and John Pittman, USA
Their longest channel escort was done between July 10th-13th in 2013 when the captains escorted Team FTD, including Forrest Nelson, Becky Jackman-Beeler, Mike Mitchell, Kent Nicholas, Emily Evans, and Tina Neill on an unprecedented 6-way crossing of the Catalina Channel.
While their schedule has been packed in the 21st century, it was not always the case.
Back in the 1970’s, the idea of swimming across the 20.2-mile Catalina Channel re-emerged.
Between 1959 and 1971, the Catalina Channel had only been crossed once (Isaac Papke in 1963). Catalina’s decade of the 1970’s were similar to the decade of the 1950’s and were a precursor to the popularity of contemporary times.
Starting in the 1970’s and over the next three decades, Mickey was always willing to take on escort of numerous swimmers from around the world. Mickey piloted Lynne Cox, Penny Dean, John York, Cindy Cleveland, Dan Slosberg, and David Yudovin, among many others. In those years, he used only a compass, and a radar at night for guidance.
In the 1990’s John started crewing for him at the age of 14. By the end of the century, John was also sufficiently experienced to pilot swims.
Similar to the passion demonstrated by their swimmers, it was clear the depth of involvement that Mickey showed over 27 years of piloting and John has shown over 42 years with over 250 crossings.
Richard Broer, Netherlands
“Few people have positively influenced the world of open water swimming over a course of the last few decades like Richard Broer,” reflected Munatones.
“The number of people who he has mentored, guided and inspired – either directly on channel relays or indirectly through his online properties – is mind-boggling.
The Dutch swimmer, promoter, event organizer, administrator and coach has literally touched every aspect of the sport, from charity relay swims to the promotion of thousands of open water events throughout Europe. Day in and day out, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, Richard relentlessly and tirelessly does his part to help others.”
His list of accomplishments is impressively long and is an embodiment of the passion and knowledge that he offers the sport.
He works from pool decks to escort boat decks. He spends countless hours behind a computer screen and completing paperwork. He motivates and he inspires swimmers from all walks of life and all abilities.
* Broer manages the Netherlands Open Water Web, a comprehensive and authoritative source of open water swimming information in Dutch that he started in 1998 (www.noww.nl) that continues to thrive with information about nationally-sanctioned swims and non-sanctioned swim and includes pre-race information, registration entries, results, and visual and descriptive reports of the races.
* Broer is the co-webmaster of Openwaterswimming.eu, a comprehensive and authoritative source of open water swimming information and swimming holidays throughout Europe.
* Broer started his open water swimming career in 1974 and remains active in 2016.
* Broer swam across the Strait of Gibraltar in 2008 in 5 hours 4 minutes at the age of 49.
* Broer set a record at the Netherlands national open water competition in 1978 that remains untouched.
* Broer was the second Dutchman under 16 minutes in the 1500m freestyle, performed in 1979.
* Broer was a top 20 swimmer at Dutch national open water swimming competitions between 1992 and 2011.
* Broer was the first Dutchman and remains the national record holder for a solo crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, set in 2008.
* Broer swam with team IJsselmeerbikkels that set the Dutch national 6-man record for an English Channel relay crossing in 2010.
* Broer coached and swam with the Channel Team Wassenaar to a national English Channel record for men on a EFE crossing and a FE crossing in 2014.
* Broer completed 3 solo crossings, more than 10 relay crossings and more than 20 crossings as a coach in the IJsselmeer event in the Netherlands.
* Broer is a member of the Technical Open Water Swimming Committee in the Netherlands.
* Broer is responsible for an annual Dutch open water swimming publication that lists all the national association events.
* Broer is a coach and trainer for channel swimmers and marathon swimmers, specializing in team-building. He currently enjoys a 100% success rate with teams and swimmers across the English Channel and Strait of Gibraltar that includes 2 world and 7 national (speed) records.
* Broer coached the Dutch Ladies First, a 6-women relay team who set the two-way all-female English Channel records (EFE and FE) in 18 hours 22 minutes under the escort of Captain Lance Oram on the Sea Satin. The Dutch Ladies First were nominated for the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year award.
* Broer has served as a member of the Technical Open Water Committee of Royal Netherlands Swimming Association from 1995 to the present.
* Broer has served as the Chairperson of the Technical Open Water Committee of Royal Netherlands Swimming Association from 2011 to the present.
* Broer has served as a member of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame board of directors and is a member of the International Voting Panel representing Europe since 2007.
* Broer coached Channel Team Wassenaar, a team that raised €37,000 in its 2011 English Channel crossing.
* Broer coached and swam with the first mixed gay, non-gay Dutch swim team with HHZV Plons across the English Channel in 2013.
* Broer coached a breaststroke swimming team for a double IJsselmeer (M-S-M) in 2015.
* Broer coached female winner Délenn van Oostom at the Open Dutch Championships in 2015 in IJsselmeer S-M.
* Broer coached the duo IJsselmeer S-M charity relay called Extreem tegen Kanker in 2015.
*Broer coached ECSC-one80fit at IJsselmeer S-M in 2015 and observed their qualification to swim the English Channel in 2015.
Tamara Bruce, Australia
Precocious. Fast. Fearless.
Those are apropo adjectives to describe Tamara Bruce of Australia who retired prematurely at the age of 23.
“I threw a tantrum at my dad because I wanted to swim the pre-FINA World Championships 25 km swim in the Swan River in Perth, but the only way my dad could stop me from going on and on was to say he’d enter me in the first marathon swim when I was old enough to compete,” recalled Bruce about her stat in the sport.
While the Sydney Harbour 30 km race and was her first taste of marathon swimming, Bruce established her legacy in the 19.7 km Rottnest Channel Swim.
Bruce was the overall winner at the 1992 Rottnest Channel Swim at the age of 14. Not only did the precocious swimmer beat hundreds of more experience swimmers in the Western Australian classic, she also established a new overall course record.
Bruce re-established the female record at the 1993 Rottnest Channel Swim in a blazing time of 4 hours 10 minutes, a record that remarkably still stands today.
A year later in 1994 as a 17-year-old, Bruce swam the English Channel in 7 hours 53 minutes which remains tied for the 14th fastest crossing in history (out of 2,256 solo swims).
Over the course of her career, she went on to complete a total of 10 solo crossings in the Rottnest Channel Swim, one duo crossing, and two team crossings:
*1992 – 4 hours 13 minutes
*1993 – 4 hours 10 minutes
*1994 – 4 hours 50 minutes
*1995 – 4 hours 50 minutes
*1996 – 4 hours 33 minutes
*1997 – 4 hours 42 minutes
*2001 – 5 hours 40 minutes
*2002 – 6 hours 7 minutes
*2003 – 8 hours 17 minutes
*2004 – 5 hours 44 minutes
Bruce describes her accomplishments and achievements in the open water:
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What attracted you to the water (open and pool)?
Tamara Bruce: I was a water baby, the youngest child of eight siblings. I was in the water as soon as possible with my father being a swim coach and having his learn-to-swim and coaching business; I never had a choice to be involved in swimming. I loved every minute of being involved in the pool swimming, surf lifesaving as a nipper at 4, some water polo and swim thru’s, swimming in the river and ocean, but my love of anything was all started when I was very young.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What drove you to your first marathon swim? What was your time and place?
Tamara Bruce: My drive to swim my first marathon came two years earlier when I had a argument with my father-coach because I wanted to swim the 25 km pre-World Championship race in 1989-90 because my sister and some fellow training mates were entered. My dad had to stop me going on and on so he informed me that as soon as I was age eligible to compete in a marathon he would enter one for me to compete. Sydney Harbour International Invitational Marathon was the first race I could enter. However, it was an invitation-only race and my dad didn’t believe I would be selected as the best open water swimmers around the world were competing and I had no experience, but race organisers took a chance and I loved that it was such a great race for my first marathon.
The Sydney Harbour race was from Manly to Darling Harbour and then back – and had every open water condition, calm at the halfway point around Darling Harbour before heading back to Manly which was the rough element as you swam past the Sydney Heads, the 2 km wide entrance to the Harbour from the ocean which made for a hard start and finish.”
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was your most difficult swim?
Tamara Bruce: The 1995 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships 25 km marathon swim in s Atlanta, Georgia where I swam with a very high temperature and felt like I was swallowing razors blades. However, I never told my dad or the team manager. They did suspect [something] I’m sure, but I knew we needed to have all members swimming to be eligible to win the team event. My support boat with my dad-coach kept breaking down also that day. Nothing was going right for me; however, Australia still won the team gold, but it was a very hard day.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was your most satisfying swim?
Tamara Bruce: The Sydney Harbour International Invitational Marathon. This may surprise some people, but the saying of “never meet your hero” plays a big role as I had a very, very prominent and famous Australian swimmer say to me at a dinner presentation the night before the 30 km swim that she didn’t know why I was there and I wouldn’t possibly make the distance because I had no experience and I shouldn’t turn up to the start. I was 14 years old and devastated. I had never met this person and I had admired and looked up to this person since I was little. However, my dad though extremely angry, knew how to motivate me and bring out my tenacious spirit to swim strong, stay on task, and to accomplish what we set out to achieve.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What were your scariest moments during your open water swims?
Tamara Bruce: My fellow swimmer David O’Brien would know this, but we had an Australian navy submarine pop up in a Rottnest Channel crossing. It caused us to be pulled under. I was not as close as David, but it certainly was a scary moment.
At the Rottnest Channel Swim in 2003, over half the field didn’t start due to weather and conditions and over half of the field that did start didn’t finish. Yes, the race should have been cancelled, but wasn’t. I have never been scared in open water of sharks ever; however, because of the weather, my boat could not get anywhere near me except to pass my feeds to me and had to move away quickly. Also, a paddler just was not possible due to the conditions so that swim was the first time I felt unsafe. I did finish, but it was long day mentally and physically.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Was your father always on your escort boats?
Tamara Bruce: My father-coach was always on my support boat even when home funds were low. He always found the money to accompany me on my swims. There were only two swims when I had already ‘retired’ that I said he should go on the support boat with one of our new open water swimmers and solely because I was just swimming for the fun of it; not as a full-on competitor and his experience would help guide her swim more than supporting me in my fun crossing.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When and why did you retire?
Tamara Bruce: I retired when I was 22-23 years old after a car accident. I had hurt my shoulder and lower back and it was just too difficult to train at the time. I had been coaching and teaching swimming with our family business since I was 17 and had been making that transition for many years. Teaching and coaching juniors was becoming my priority more every summer season.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What is your involvement in open water swimming now (besides your work on the IMSHOF committees)?
Tamara Bruce: I’ve been coaching since I was 17 alongside my dad. I really started looking after our club open water swimmers and national age swimmers when my dad’s involvement on Australian pool teams grew with some of his swimmers which had him away a lot more. I was also a coach-handler at the 2000 World Open Water Swimming Championships in Honolulu, Hawaii and a manager at the 2001 FINA World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. My passion for open water has never waned and I would dearly love to see Australia get back to podium finishes at elite level and to also see the continuation of the growth of open water swimming across the world.
And the third generation of Bruce’s have entered the open water world. “My son Bay is eight and swam his first open water race of 500 meters in Rottnest.”
David Barra, USA
“Organizing a safe competition around Manhattan Island is not an insignificant undertaking. It requires a lot of hard work, planning and commitment. But, of course, this was not an unusual act of community service by David,” said Munatones. “In fact, given his track record in the sport, his passion to pick up the world’s most popular marathon swimming race and carry on the tradition is frankly par for his course.”
After a long history of helping others and competing as a marathon swimming ambassador, the American participated in the inaugural S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge in Arizona in 2012 and worked as a guide and coach with SwimVacation in addition to serving as one of the principals of New York Open Water that organizes the 20 Bridges Circumnavigation Swim of Manhattan, the 28.5-mile (46.5 km) replacement swim for the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.
Barra also created the 120-mile (193 km) 8 Bridges | Hudson River Swim in 2011 that has turned into the world’s longest competitive marathon swim series and a destination swimming event for ultra-marathoners.
Based on his customary greeting, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” Barra takes long distance swimming very, very seriously.
In 2010, the then 45-year-old Barra had one of the most remarkably prolific years of amateur open water swimming in the 21st century. He started off in March with a 9.6-mile Maui Channel between the islands of Lanai and Maui in Hawaii. Then he completed the the 24-mile (38.6 km) Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in Florida in April in 10 hours 49 minutes. Then he went on to complete the 28.5-mile (45.8 km) Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in June in 8 hours 30 minutes.
On his second leg of his Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, he crossed the 21-mile (33.7 km) Catalina Channel in July with a 15 hour 37 minute swim in tough conditions. Then he did the 8-mile (12.8 km) Boston Light Swim in Massachusetts in August in 3 hours. He completed an English Channel in September with a 14 hour 27 minute crossing and followed it up with a 17.5-mile (28.1 km) Ederle Swim in October in 5 hours 37 minutes. He capped off that 2010 season with a 5 km swim in Coney Island November in New York. His explanation of his exploits are below.
After the 2012 S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge, Barra completed the 20-mile Provincetown to Plymouth swim (P2P Swim) in Massachusetts, the 25-mile In Search of Memphre, a cross-border swim from Vermont (USA) to Quebec (Canada), and organized the 2nd 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim. He also participated in the 15.1-mile Cape Circumnavigation Challenge marathon swim around Cape May, New Jersey and won the inaugural 2.6-mile Cold Water Challenge in Fairfield, Connecticut.
In 2013, Barra completed a 22-mile marathon swim in Eleuthera, Bahamas from Lighthouse Beach to Sunrise Beach in 13 hours 41 minutes. In 2015, Barra completed a lengthwise 38-mile (61.1 km) crossing of Cayuga Lake in New York in 23 hours 26 minutes.
So prolific has Barra been, he is now the namesake for the Barra Award of the Marathon Swimmers Federation. The Barra Award is an award given to an individual for most impressive overall year of marathon swimming.
Barra served as an observer for Chloë McCardel’s 126 km marathon swim from Lighthouse Beach on the southern tip of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas to Nassau in 42 hours 30 minutes in 2014.
Humble, passionate and committed, Barra represents everything good and positive about the sport.
Colin Hill, Great Britain
Innovative, creative, passionate, organized and articulate.
These are only a few well-deserved adjectives for Colin Hill.
Hill has literally done everything in the sport, from race organization to ice swimming.
He is the visionary behind the British Gas Great Swim Series and developed the concept to make open water appealing to the general public. The British Gas Great North Swim is now one of the biggest mass participation swims in the world.
He was also the Marathon Swimming Technical Operations Manager for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim that Hill produced showcased the sport of open water swimming like never before.
He also appears frequently on British television programs and is frequently named as one of the 101 Movers And Shakers In The Open Water Swimming World.
After his Olympic success, Hill set up Chillswim and organizes the Big Chill Swim in Windermere in the Lake District of England. He also completed an ice swim in Windermere in 2013 and organizes the Chillswim Coniston – 5.25 miles End to End, the Big Chill Swim Salford, the Chillswim Boxing Day Dip, and the historic Windermere Cross Lake Swim in Windermere, England.
Hill received the Open Water Ambassador of the Year award at the 2012 H2Open Awards and was nominated for the 2012, 2014 and 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year awards.
He was the first person to swim from shore to shore across Kielder Water in northeast England in 2014 and was a speaker at the 2014 FINA World Aquatics Conference on The Future of Aquatics.
He crossed the English Channel in 10 hours 30 minutes and completed one of the fastest ice mile swims in history in 2013 in Windermere in 4.7°C water and 4.4°C air in 24:22. He has completed a two-way crossing of Windermere, was the age group 450m champion at the 2012 Winter Swimming World Championships in Latvia, won the 5 km Hellespont Race (200th anniversary swim of Lord Byron’s Crossing) in Turkey, completed a crossing of the Strait of Messina in Italy, did a Strait of Gibraltar crossing in 2011, and did swims including the Distance Swim Challenge in California, Setubal Bay in Portugal, and did a 48-mile 6-person relay in Loch Earne, Ireland.
“Colin is a wonderful, tireless ambassador of the sport and has an eye for detail to make swims memorable, unique, competitive and safe for swimmers of all ages and abilities,” says Munatones. “He can talk strategy with Olympians, he can discuss basic swimming strokes with newcomers, he can advise people how to create ideal safety nets in mass participation events. He works with FINA and he works with newbies; he works with sponsors and with local government authorities. His versatility is impressive.”
He has done it all…and he has decades longer to do even more in the sport.
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