Bill Sadlo, The Swimming Grandfather

Courtesy of WOWSA, New York City.

William ‘Bill’ Sadlo, Jr. was well ahead of his time.

Sadlo, an early pioneer of marathon swimming, was honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 2009. Sadlo competed in at least 31 marathon swims between 1927 to 1957 and was a founding member of the International Professional Swimmers Association while directing swimming programs in New York City for three decades.

Sadlo was the Vice President of the International Professional Swimmers Association that was established in September 1927 at the McAlpin Hotel in New York City.

He participated in the 3-mile President’s Cup Race across the Potomac River between 1922 and 1925 and the 3.5 mile NYC Metropolitan AAU Senior Long Distance Championship at Camp Ruddy. In 1930, Sadlo swam the 11.6 miles from Coney Island to the Battery in Manhattan, in 3 hours 39 minutes, and finished 7th in the 1948 Lake George, New York 12-mile race at the age of 46.

Prior to his documented swim from Battery Park to Liberty Island in New York City in 1930, Sadlo had attempted the same swim in 1925, only to be carried out by a swift ebb tide. Friends and patrol boats searched for him without success, but later found him at the starting point several hours later. In an effort to make himself more visible to passing harbor boats, he proclaimed to make the journey in the nude.

1927 marked the beginning of his marathon swimming career when he swam the first of four 28.5-mile races around Manhattan Island, winning in 1928 when he was the only swimmer to finish.

Sadlo also participated in 20 – all but one – of the Canadian National Exhibition swims in Toronto between 1927 and 1955, ranging from 5 to 32 miles with third being his highest finish in 1949 when only three swimmers completed the famously difficult race. Given the nickname ‘The Swimming Grandfather‘ in Canada, he remained competitive with younger swimmers into his 50’s.

Sadlo made two successful Great Lakes crossings in the 1950s. At age 52, he competed in a 31.7-mile race across Lake Erie from Point Pelee Park, Canada to the Cedar Point Resort in Sandusky, Ohio in 15 hours 30 minutes. In 1957, he became the oldest person to successfully swim 32 miles across Lake Ontario from Fort Niagara, New York to Toronto, Canada.

Sadlo also participated in the inaugural 22.5-mile swim around Absecon Island in Atlantic City in 1954 where he finished a respectable 11th place at age 52 against the best swimmers of that era.

He was a swimmer who epitomized the spirit of marathon swimming while dedicating his life to teaching swimming to others.

Above photo of Bill Sadlo Jr. from the Solo Swims website.

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