Circumnavigations In The Open Water

Circumnavigations In The Open Water

The world presents so many open water swimming venues, the list of possible circumnavigations is endless. But this very short list below describes some of the more established around-the-island swims around the world.

If your favorite circumnavigation is not listed, please email us and we can add to the list.

1. Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (shown above)
• Location: Around Manhattan Island in New York City, New York.
• Course: Complete counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, starting and finishing near Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
• Distance: 28.5 miles (45.8K).
• Date: June.
• Description: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim is limited to 25 solo swimmers and 18 relay teams that start and finish at Battery Park City. Race sells out in 90 minutes. Individual circumnavigation first completed in 1915 and the race was first organized in 1927. Substantial surface chop and strong tidal pull are possible. Water temperature varies between 58-67°F (13-19°C). Brackish water around Manhattan Island may also include random jetsam and flotsam. A Qualifying Swim must be completed before application will be approved. The premier event of the Manhattan Island Foundation that annually conducts ten other open water events including swims around Liberty Island, Governors Island and underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

2. Alcatraz Island
• Location: San Francisco Bay, California.
• Course: From Aquatic Park near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to Alcatraz Island and back.
• Distance: 3.25 miles (5.2K).
• Date: July.
• Description: Swim around Alcatraz requires extensive open water experience due to the cold water (under 60°F or 15.5°C), changing tides and fast currents, but spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the San Francisco downtown skyline will delight the swimmers throughout the event.

3. Pennock Island
• Location: In Ketchikan, Alaska.
• Course: Around Pennock Island in the Tongass Narrows.
• Distance: 8.2 miles (13.2K)
• Date: August.
• Description: The Pennock Island Challenge is a current-assisted course sheltered from large surf everywhere except the sound end. Water temperature ranges from mid-50s°F to low 60s°F (12.7 to 16.6°C). Air temperature will range from the mid-60s°F to mid 80s°F (18-29°C). Swimmers can enter as solo and as members of a relay. Wetsuits are allowed, but will have their own awards category. Fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.

4. Sandycove Island
• Location: Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.
• Course: Counterclockwise circumnavigation around the island.
• Distance: Up to 1.25 miles (2K) depending on how close one swims to the island.
• Date: Training swims made from late winter when water can be 45°F to late summer with an official Sandycove Island Challenge race in September.
• Description: The Old Head of Kinsales shelters Sandycove Island from the prevalent westerly winds. Swim at high tide for the easiest swim. Low tide exposes hidden reefs and a beach at the base of the slipway. Medium currents at mid-tide can present problems for slower swimmers. Nearly 150 swims are scheduled each year at the primary training spot for open water swimmers and triathletes. Excellent training location for those preparing for an English Channel attempt. Clean crisp water with sunken reefs and waving sea plants clearly visible.

5. Hong Kong Island
• Location: Hong Kong.
• Course: From Stanley Peninsula to Deepwater Bay, around the clean and beautiful waters of Hong Kong’s south side.
• Distance: 9 miles (14.5K).
• Date: October.
• Description: The Clean Half Marathon Swim includes a solo swim and a 5-person relay (with 20-minute legs) around stunning Hong Kong Island in 71-81°F (22-27°C) waters through significant chop and backwash from huge rock cliffs.

6. Starnes Island
• Location: Lake Travis in Austin, Texas.
• Course: 1-mile swim in 78ºF (25.5ºC) from Volente Beach around Starnes Island and back to start.
• Distance: 1 mile (0.62K).
• Date: October.
• Description: The Volente Beach Waterpark Open Water Family Gala is part of the American Swimming Association open water swimming series in and around the Austin, Texas area.

7. Island of Key West
• Location: Key West, Florida.
• Course: Circumnavigation around Key West, the southernmost tip of Florida.
• Distance: 12.5 miles (20K).
• Date: June.
• Description: The FKCC Swim around Key West is held in beautiful, shallow, generally calm warm waters (85°F or 29.4ºC) with the bottom of the ocean visible throughout the course. Includes a solo swim, a 2-person relay, a 3-person relay and a 6-person relay (mixed and all-female). Organized by Florida Keys Community College. The Swim Around Key West includes a solo swim, a 2-person relay and a 3-person relay amid abundant marine life including conch shells, manna rays, seaweed, sting rays, seat turtles, very docile nurse sharks and colorful tropical fish.

9. Absecon Island
• Location: Absecon Island, Atlantic City, New Jersey.
• Course: Demanding swim with strong tides and current, varying conditions and water temperatures that can range from 55°F (12.7°C) in the open ocean to 85°F (29.4°C) in the back bay.
• Distance: 22.5 miles (37K)
• Date: August.
• Description: The previously held Atlantic City Around-the-Island Marathon Swim was a prize-money race that was held 54 times since 1954, annually attracting the world’s best professional swimmers. It has been called the hardest race in the world because conditions vary so greatly. Recent swims have been cancelled. Escort boats are rowed by local lifeguards.

10. Popoia Island
• Location: Off of Kailua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.
• Course: Local swims around a low-lying uninhabited island near one of the best beaches in Hawaii. The island is a bird sanctuary and is called Flat Island by the locals.
• Distance: 1.2 miles (2K)
• Date: Throughout the year, especially in summer.
• Description: Kailua Beach Park is always considered one of the top beaches in the world on the northern side of Oahu. Clean white sand beach with warm tropical water up to 80°F (26.6°C). The island has holes where sea birds make their nests. Parking available at Kailua Beach Park about a 20-minute drive from Waikiki.

11. Manana Island
• Location: Off of Makapuu Beach, Oahu, Hawaii.
• Course: Challenging, potentially dangerous swim around an incredibly gorgeous uninhabited seabird sanctuary island near one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii. The island is near one of the most famous bodysurfing beaches on Oahu and is called “Rabbit Island” by the locals.
• Distance: 1.2 miles (2K).
• Date: Throughout the year, especially in summer.
• Description: The Makapuu Beach Park nearly always has rough water conditions and strong currents and sharks are an ever-present danger. Surfers and kayakers have been attacked by sharks in this area and extreme caution is strongly advised. If no experienced and vigilant escorts are available, swimmers are advised to avoid swimming in this area.

12. Mokulua Islands
• Location: off of Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii.
• Course: Circumnavigation around an incredibly beautiful tropical twin islands off of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Commonly known as the Twin Islands, the Moku Nui and Moku Iki. The islands are designated seabird sanctuaries that are popular among kayakers.
• Distance: 1.5 miles (1.2K).
• Date: Throughout the year, especially in summer.
• Description: Crystal clear azure blue waters and lack of waves makes this an easy swim. Finish on a powdery white sand beach that has been designate as the Best Beach in America. Area is protected by an off-shore coral reef, but the danger of marine life is always present. If no experienced and vigilant escorts are available, swimmers are advised to avoid swimming in this area.

13. Santa Catalina Island
• Location: Rocky island 21 miles (34K) off of the coast of Southern California.
• Course: Extremely demanding swim in cold water with strong currents and potentially high waves and abundant marine life. Island is 22 miles (35K) long and 8 miles (13K) wide.
• Distance: At least 50 miles (80.5K).
• Date: Attempts generally made from July to September.
• Description: Population of island is under 4,000 people. Threat of sharks is present. Only one circumnavigation has been authenticated (Cindy Cleveland of Seal Beach, California).

14. Coronado Island
• Location: Island between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.
• Course: Demanding swim in relatively cold water with potentially strong tides and surf.
• Distance: 11.7 miles (28.5K).
• Date: Races no longer held.

15. Isle of Wight
• Location: Island in the English Channel between 3-5 miles from the south coast of Great Britain.
• Course: Demanding swim in cold water with strong currents.
• Distance: 56 miles (90K).
• Date: Attempts can be made in July or August.
• Description: Known for its natural beauty, the Isle of Wight has been a holiday resort since Victorian times. First completed by Kevin Murphy of Great Britain in 1971 in 26 hours and 51 minutes.

16. Yonaguni Island
• Location: Okinawa, Japan.
• Course: Demanding swim around incredibly beautiful tropical island near Japan and the westernmost point of Japan.
• Distance: 18 miles (29K).
• Date: Attempts generally made in October.
• Description: Population of island is under 1,700 people. Thousands of hammerhead sharks congregate near tips of island within view of swimmers. Water temperature about 80°F (26.6°C). First completed in 1993 by Steven Munatones of California in 7 hours and 8 minutes.

16. Round Christiansborg Swim
• Location: Copenhagen, Denmark.
• Course: Five 2K loops in Fredericksholm’s Canal around the island that houses the palace of the Danish Parliament. Swimmers will swim through canals alongside Holmen Church, the Danish Parliament, the Danish Ministry of Culture, royal riding stables and near the central shopping area of Copenhagen.
• Distance: 6.2 miles (10K)
• Date: August.
• Description: The Round Christiansborg Swim is a popular Danish swim for amateurs and the newest FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup event. Amateurs swim in the morning and the pro swimmers start the FINA World Cup race in the afternoon. Water temperatue is between 64-72°F (18-22°C).

17. Estero Island
• Location: Fort Myers, Florida.
• Course: 25K loop around Estero Island on the west coast of Florida.
• Distance: 16 miles (25K)
• Date: June.
• Description: Recent site of the USA Swimming National 25K Championships. Warm water swim in the clear waters of Florida. Part of the Open Water Festival that has numerous events from the 1-mile Dash for Cash to the 10K.

18. Trunk Island, Crow Island, Rabbit Island and Collins Island
• Location: Harrington Sounds, Bermuda.
• Course: Stunningly gorgeous swim around several small islands in Harrington Sound.
• Distance: 6.2 miles (10K).
• Date: October.
• Description: Longest race in the annual Bermuda Round the Sound event with other 0.8K, 2K, 4K and 7.25K swims and an international field. Swim in 78°F (25.5°C) clear waters around a dramatic Caribbean coastline 650 miles east of North Carolina. Bermuda was voted the Best Island in the Caribbean/Atlantic region by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

19. Mercer Island
• Location: Island located in Lake Washington in between Seattle and the headquarters of Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.
• Course: Incredible views of the natural beauty of the American Northwest.
• Distance: Approximately 16 miles (25K).
• Date: July or August.
• Description: Mercer Island is the most populated island in a lake in the U.S. and is a calm swim unless the winds come up. Water temperature is in the mid 70ºs.

20. Seward Island
• Location: Island located in Lake Washington in between Seattle and the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
• Course: Incredible views of an old growth forest and the natural beauty of the Seattle area.
• Distance: 3.2 miles (5K).
• Date: July or August.
• Description: Relatively easy, quite comfortable and extremely enjoyable swim with water in the mid 70ºs during summer.

21. Island of Jersey
• Location: Island located in the English Channel approximately 14 miles (22K) from Normandy, France and approximately 100 miles (162K) south of Great Britain.
• Course: Scenic terrain ranging from long sandy bays to rugged cliffs.
• Distance: Approximately 43.5 miles (70K) of coastline.
• Date: July or August.
• Description: Jersey is the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands. First circumnavigation swim successfully completed in 1969; fastest circumnavigation swim is held by Alison Streeter, the Queen of the Channel, in 9 hours and 53 minutes. Water temperature is 64ºF (17.7ºC) and the swim is tidal assisted if timed right.

22. Valentia Island
• Location: Island located off the western coast of Ireland.
• Course: Scenic Irish terrain that requires careful navigation due to tides and currents.
• Distance: 16+ miles (25.7K) of coastline.
• Date: July and August.
• Description: First circumnavigation swim successfully completed in July 2008 by Ned Denison in 8 hours and 52 minutes. Jellyfish can be abundant when water temperature rises above 55ºF (13ºC). Numerous fish species and basking shark are popular among fishermen in the area. Water temperature expected to be under 60ºF (15ºC). Circumnavigation should be carefully planned for optimal tidal assistance.

Please email us so we can add your favorite circumnavigation to our list.

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