How Many Channel Swimmers Are There In The World?

How Many Channel Swimmers Are There In The World?

With the sport of open water swimming growing in all its various niches, the World Open Water Swimming Association conducted a preliminary survey of the channel swimming world. In this Part 1 of a multi-part series on the open water swimming world, it attempted to estimate the approximate number of channel swimmers around the world.

In subsequent articles, the World Open Water Swimming Association will estimate the number of marathon swimmers (inclusive of lake and river swims) as well as the number of wetsuit swimmers and open water swimmers in general. Its goal is to estimate the size of the total overall open water swimming market in the 162 countries where data on the sport is available.

A preliminary review of the major channel swimming governing bodies around the world led Open Water Source to estimate there were a minimum of 710 active channel swimmers in 2012 who made at least 942 attempts and 797 successes across waterways in oceans or seas or around/between islands during this year.

There were undoubtedly additional swimmers, attempts and successes but injuries, illnesses, broken plans, financial difficulties, operational/logistical changes, poor weather and myriad other problems (including lack of information) reduced the total documented number.

But this is the best guess estimate at this time. If readers have additional information, please send to The breakdown is as follows:

English Channel
Channel Swimming Association: 74 one-way attempts and 46 successes
3 two-way attempts with 3 one-way successes
1 three-way attempt with 1 two-way success

Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation: 81 one-way attempts and 50 successes
2 two-way attempts with 2 one-way successes
1 three-way attempt with 1 two-way success

Hawaiian Island Channels: 17 attempts and 17 successes
Auau Channel (2), Kaiwi Channel (5), Kalohi Channel (4), Kaulakahi Channel (3), Pailolo Channel (3)

North Channel: 4 attempts and 1 success (in a new route)

Catalina Channel: 30 attempts and 25 successes

Santa Barbara Channel: 19 attempts and 15 successes

Tsugaru Channel: 16 attempts and 7 successes

Strait of Gibraltar: 34 non-wetsuit successes and 66 wetsuit successes (unknown number of attempts)

Cook Strait: 10 attempts and 3 successes

Cape Long Distance Swimming Association: 99 successes (unknown number of attempts)
Robben Island – Blouberg (61), Robben Island – Blouberg Double (1), Robben Island – Blouberg Triple (1), Round Robben Island (1), Round Robben Island Double (1), Robben Island – 3AB (10), and Milnerton – Blouberg (24)

Farallon Islands Swimming Association: 3 attempts and 0 successes

Florida Strait: 2 attempts and 0 successes

Rottnest Channel Swim: 202 attempts and 187 successes

Key West (Florida):
Swim Around Key West: 67 attempts and 67 successes
FKCC Swim Around Key West: 41 attempts and 38 successes

Tampa Bay Marathon Swim: 16 attempts and 0 successes

Fiji Swims: 5 attempts and 5 successes

Cancun (FINA Grand Prix): 25 attempts and 25 successes

Capri-Napoli (FINA Grand Prix): 28 attempts and 21 successes

Palk Strait: 1 attempt and 1 success

Fastnet Rock (Ireland): 1 attempt and 1 success

Clean Half (Hong Kong): 9 attempts and 9 successes

Jersey Island:
Round Jersey: 6 successes (including 1 wetsuit)
Jersey-France: 2 successes

Cork Channel (3 km): 7 attempts and 7 successes

Malta-Gozo-Malta: 10 attempts and 9 successes
Gozo-Malta: 60 attempts and 49 successes

There are probably at least another 15 solo swims or charity swims (not including stage swims) across channels or around islands in the Pacific Ocean or Atlantic Ocean, as well as somewhere in the Caribbean Sea or Mediterranean Sea.

A list of 101 marathon swims (inclusive of lake and river swims) is posted here. An estimate of the size of the marathon swimming community will described in Part 2. The list above only includes sea and ocean swims of marathon distance.

The number of professional open water swimmers is posted here.

The number of marathon swimmers is posted here.

The number of channel swimmers is posted here.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones