The Hardest Open Water Swims In The World (Southern Hemisphere)
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE. The world has innumerable locations for incredibly hard open water swims. Rough conditions, cold water, sharks, jellyfish, tides, currents, long distances, high altitudes and logistical considerations are the primary obstacles.
What are some of swims in the Southern Hemisphere that would be on the ultimate open water swimmer’s bucket list?
The potential list could be extremely long.
World Open Water Swimming Association selected fifteen tough challenges, excluding stage swims, adventure swims and relays that are categorized separately.
1. False Bay: The 33 km across False Bay from Rooiels to Miller’s Point has eluded many who have attempted it. It has been attempted 22 times with only five successes who have survived the hugely strong currents and ever abundant Great White Sharks.
2. Rottnest Channel Swim: 19.7 km of turbulent waters amid thousands of open water swimming colleagues of rugged stock in the largest marathon swim in the world with categories for both soloists and relays.
3. Cook Strait: 16 nautical miles of strong currents and tidal flows with sharks and abundant marine life. 81 swimmers have conquered the powerful ocean swells, turbulent conditions and cold water (sub-15°C or 59°F).
4. Southern (Antarctic) Ocean: 3 individuals – living legends of the extreme world – have pioneered swims at the bottom of the Earth. But with more and more people regularly swimming in sub-3°C or 37°F), expect more swimmers to take 1 km – 1 mile challenges in the driest, coldest continent on Earth.
5. Robben Island Channel: the infamous island prison sits 6.9 km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa. Site of the roughest, toughest annual competition in cold water has plenty of marine life, including sharks, that can give swimmers the shivers.
6. Beagle Channel: Even at its narrowest point of 5 km, the waterway between Chile and Argentina present significant obstacles for everyone but the most hardy extreme swimmers. Besides the cold water (sub-4°C or 39°F), swimmers also face currents, surface turbulence and the dreaded williwaw.
7. Strait of Magellan: Even for ships, this passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans is difficult because of the unpredictable winds and currents. Add the cold water and waves, and this waterway is gnarly and treacherous – too dangerous for everyone but the best prepared and most capable swimmers with expert safety crews.
8. Cape Horn: Long known as a sailor’s graveyard, the southernmost point of Chile is an extremely hazardous place to swim due to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs.
9. Lake Titicaca: Cold water (56-58°F/13-14.5°F) combined with high altitude (3,811 meters or 12,500 feet above sea level) in the highest lake in the Americas makes for tough swimming. Sitting on the borders of Peru and Bolivia, swimmers need to elevate their game in this leg of the Still Water Eight.
10. Cape Peninsula: 75 – 100 km of rocky shoreline bordering the Atlantic Ocean at the southwestern tip of the African continent. Between the Cape of Good Hope in the south and Table Mountain in the north, swimmers face unforgiving ocean swells, extremely rough conditions, cold water, powerful currents and an abundance of sharks.
11. Lake Malawi: The eighth largest lake in the world is located between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Its tropical waters contain more species of fish than those of any other body of fresh water on Earth, but it is the hippopotamus is one of the creatures that swimmers must look out for.
12. Maratón Internacional Hernandarias – Paraná: 88 km (54.6 miles) down a river against the fastest professional marathon swimmers in the world where the pace nearly never lets up. The warm-water conditions (28°C/82°F) and width of the river make this race one of the toughest in the world.
13. Maratón Acuático Rio Coronda: 57 km (35.4 miles) of fast, unrelenting swimmers against the most experienced and fastest professional marathon swimmers in the world in Santa Fe, Argentina. As part of the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix series, the swimmers have many currents and eddies in the Rio Coronda.
14. Fiji Swims: 36 km (22.3 miles) is a double-crossing between the main island of Fiji and Treasure Island. Held in a tropical island paradise, swimmers swim in crystal-clear waters over beautiful coral reefs and abundant marine life, but face warm waters, jellyfish, turbulence, and currents and plenty of islands between.
15. 3 Anchor Bay: 10.5 km from Robben Island presents a swim against a southwest current at all times. If a swimmer is not strong enough, they get washed into Moullie Point or Table Bay harbor in the 11-14°C (51.8-57.2°F) turbulent waters.
There are many other swims throughout the Southern Hemisphere, but these 15 are mind-boggling difficult.
15 of the most difficult swims in the Northern Hemisphere are posted here.
Photo shows Cape Horn.
Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Southern California native, born 1962, is the creator of the WOWSA Awards, Oceans Seven, Openwaterpedia, Citrus Corps, World Open Water Swimming Association, Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Global Open Water Swimming Conference. He is Chief Executive Officer of KAATSU Global and KAATSU Research Institute. Inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Honor Swimmer, Class of 2001) and Ice Swimming Hall of Fame (Honor Contributor – Media, Class of 2019), recipient of the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Poseidon Award (2016), International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award (2010), USA Swimming’s Glen S. Hummer Award (2007, 2010) and Harvard University’s John B. Imrie Award (1984). Served on the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and as Technical Delegate with the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, and 9-time USA Swimming coaching staff.