The Greatest Watermen In Open Water Swimming History

A waterman is an individual who is considered by his peers and the marine sports community to be well-adept, experienced and highly skilled in various marine sports. Watermen performed safely and courageously in myriad conditions, such as ocean swimming, paddling, kayaking, surfing, body surfing, boating, diving, surf lifesaving, lifeguarding, rowing, yachting, fishing, stand-up paddling, kite sailing and windsurfing.

A waterman is also considered humble and fun-loving around the ocean and onshore, while simultaneously being fearless, but respectful, of rough water conditions or big-wave surf. And, always, they retain a deeply embedded connection with the ocean and take safety in the water very seriously.

Watermen are also considered skilled in interpreting weather and tide information to decide the best water activity for the conditions. They also work to improve the marine environment through a variety of activities including writing, speaking, and filmmaking. Because they are so connected with the water, they live a life oriented towards improving water resources, reducing water pollution, and protecting the environment and water species from over-exploitation.

But it is a term that cannot be self-appointed. It is a honorific description that is entirely dependent upon the opinion of one’s peers. There are acknowledged watermen in every country and every area, leaders in the aqueous environment. This is our list of some of the greatest watermen in open water swimming history (alphabetical listing by last name) including men from :

Greatest Watermen In Open Water Swimming History

1. Zacharias Alexandrakis (Macedonia): Marathon swimming enthusiast, open water swimming promoter, lifeguard, swimming coach and lifesaving leader. His interest in saving lives, inspiring younger generations, and educating people of all ages to be water safe has been his life-long mission.

2. Antonio Argüelles Díaz-González (Mexico): Triathlete, ultra-endurance athlete, channel swimmer and author. His intellect and visionary entrepreneurial successes help instill motivation to the next generation while his writings explain what it takes to succeed in the open water.

3. Stathis Avramidis, Ph.D. (Greece): Researcher, swimmer, author, speaker, and lecturer. His multi-disciplinary research focuses on drowning, accident prevention, safety promotion, aquatic safety teaching, legislation, lifeguarding, lifesaving, and near-death experiences while he educates people around the world with videos, books and voluminous content.

4. Peter Bales (South Africa): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, governing body administrator and escort pilot. His knowledge of water conditions as a swimmer and pilot, based on decades of being on and in the water, have helped innumerable individuals remain safe during mass participation swims and solo crossings.

5. Vito Bialla (U.S.A.): Extreme relay swimmer, professional sailor, and escort pilot of the Farallon Islands, California. He is an outstanding role model due to his volunteer work as a pilot in some of the most challenging venues in the world and his work that results in millions of dollars of support to charitable organizations.

6. Paul Blackbeard (South Africa): World-class pool swimmer, ocean swimmer, and life saver. He skillfully represented his country in 3 different sports and always served as a humble ambassador of aquatic athletic pursuits.

7. Lord Byron (Great Britain): Poet, author and pioneering sea swimmer. His words helped shape a movement and influence the mindset of future generations that open water swimming is a worthwhile pursuit.

8. Dick Campion (Australia): Olympian, coach, trainer, author, promoter, and professional marathon swimmer. He promotes aquatic sports and supports the athletes along with thoughtful, accurate analyses of water conditions at international swimming competitions.

9. Daniel Eulogio Carpio Massioti (Peru): Four-time Olympian, Channel swimmer, professional racer, and solo swimmer. He inspired a nation with his almost impossibily lifelong exploits in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans.

10. Bruckner Chase (U.S.A.): marathon swimmer, ocean advocate, ambassador to the disabled, filmmaker, paddler and surf lifesaver. His competitive spirit as a lifesaver and advocate of marine engagement by unserved communities have long inspired many to venture past the shoreline.

11. Buster Crabbe (U.S.A.): Olympic champion, ice swimmer, promoter, and movie star of 3 pulp fiction heroes. His decades-long career on film made him a household name while his real-life exploits in the water are seen as the epitome of a waterman.

12. Guy Delage (France): Ocean swimmer, extreme adventurer, diver, submariner, and sailor. His unprecedented adventures across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are legendary, pitting him alone against the massive ocean swells and marine life alone.

13. Marcos Díaz (Dominican Republic): Marathon racer, extreme swimmer, surfer, governing body administrator, and event director. His ocean exploits around the world are augmented by his global charitable events, motivational speaking engagements, and foundation work.

14. Shannon Eckstein (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer. His competitive spirit, athletic abilities, and numerous victories in all kinds of ocean conditions embody the skills and experiences of a true ocean waterman.

15. Ian Emberson (Kauai, U.S.A.): Channel swimmer, original Ironman triathlete, ocean swimmer, event director, and triathlete. From his view of that solo challenges are fun to organizing ocean events for the benefits of others in Hawaii, he has demonstrated his prowess in the water in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific.

16. George Freeth (Hawaii, U.S.A.): Ocean swimmer, surfer, paddler, and lifesaver organizer. He was called ‘The Man Who Can Walk On Water’ for good reason as he organized lifeguards, promoted swimming, introduced surfing, and developed the rescue paddle board that is part of his legacy.

17. Alfréd Hajós (Hungary): Olympic champion, professional racer, and architect. His Olympic victories in the 19th century set the stage for all future watermen when he acknowledged the power of Mother Nature and the need for a profoundly fundamental survival mentality against all odds.

18. Trevor Hendy (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer. His competitive spirit, athletic abilities, and numerous victories in all kinds of ocean conditions embody the skills and experiences of an iconic waterman from Oceania.

19. Colin Hill (Great Britain): Ice swimmer, Channel swimmer, television commentator, and event director. His eloquent explanation of open water swimming combined with his logistical expertise have enabled tens of thousands of people to experience the open water for the first time.

20. Craig Hummer (U.S.A.): Competitive swimmer, kayaker, paddler, Ironman lifesaver, and Olympic television commentator. His experiences as a well-rounded waterman form the basis of his eloquent description of sports on television.

21. Ky Hurst (Australia): Ocean swimmer, two-time Olympian, body surfer extraordinaire, and champion life saver. His cool attitude, chiseled physique and movie star looks combined with his aquatic skills and Olympic credentials makes him the model waterman for the 21st century.

22. Zhang Jian (China): Marathon swimmer, Channel swimmer, ice swimmer and university sports director. His leadership and pioneering swims from Hong Kong and Macau to throughout China have increased the awareness of open water in the most populous country in the world.

23. Captain Tim Johnson (U.S.A.): Marathon swimmer, author, professor, shark cage designer, analyst, and historian. With a professorial grasp of tidal flows, currents and water conditions, he has helped athletes around the world achieve their goals in rivers, lakes and oceans.

24. Duke Kahanamoku (Hawaii): Ocean swimmer, Olympic champion, surfing legend and ambassador of aloha. The iconic waterman of the 20th century surfed, swam and smiled with the best of his era and a heart of gold.

25. Grant Kenny (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer. His competitive spirit, athletic abilities, and numerous victories in all kinds of ocean conditions embody the skills and experiences of the iconic Australian waterman.

26. Guy Leech (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer. His competitive spirit, athletic abilities, and numerous victories in all kinds of ocean conditions embody the skills and experiences of the iconic Australian waterman.

27. Luiz Eduardo Carneiro da Silva de Souza Lima (Brazil): Two-time Olympian, stand-up paddler, ocean swimming coach, pioneering ocean swimmer and promoter. His joy and enthusiasm for all things oceanic is shared in person, in print media, online and on television, inspiring many in his native Brazil.

28. Pádraig Mallon (Ireland): Marathon swimmer, Channel swimmer, ice swimmer, event organizer, promoter and triathlete. He encourages others to challenge themselves as he has done himself in all kinds of water conditions, distances and elements.

29. Vojislav Mijić (Serbia): Marathon swimmer, professional racer, solo pioneer and event organizer. He enjoys challenging himself and enables others to do the same in conditions from ice to ultra-distance river swims.

30. Masayuki Moriya (Japan): Coach, channel swimmer, event organizer, clinician, and governing body administrator. He observes, crews, films and coaches others in warm waters of the South Pacific and in rough waters of the northern Pacific, all with hardened, passionate enthusiasm.

31. Keo Nakama (Hawaii/U.S.A.): World champion, world record holder, pioneering ocean swimmer, event organizer and coach. He understood training and preparation for all kinds of aquatic challenges for swimmers of all ages and talents.

32. Aaron Peirsol (U.S.A.): 7-time Olympic medalist, surfer, lifeguard, coach, and body surfer extraordinaire [see above]. Mellow, friendly demeanor on dryland is countered by an unusual intensity, international success under pressure, and a casual comfort in any aquatic environment.

33. Lewis Pugh (Great Britain): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, ocean advocate, ambassador, author, and speaker. His global reach as a ocean advocate and extreme adventurer has reached and inspired millions including global political leaders to implement positive change.

34. Kevin Richards (South Africa): Competitive swimmer, triathlete, surf lifesaver, and coach. He is an inspirational role model for his exploits in all kinds of aquatic environments and passionate teaching of people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

35. Philip Rush (New Zealand): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, professional racer, escort pilot, channel administrator, fire fighter. His multi-way channel swims across the English Channel, and Cook Strait, first two-way crossing of the Cook Strait in 1984 in 16 hours 16 minutes

36. Wayne Riddin (South Africa): Competitive swimmer, race director, aquapreneur, coach and promoter. He prepares athletes of all ages and abilities as he trained himself as a competitor, with the intensity and intelligence of true watermen.

37. Veljko Rogošić (Croatia): Two-time Olympic swimmer, professional racer, solo pioneer, swimming ambassador and marathon swimmer. He inspired many with his decades-long experience as a competitor and ambassador of all things aquatic.

38. Kenny Rust (Hawaii, U.S.A.): Ocean swimmer, lifeguard, aquapreneur, and event safety official. He routinely oversees the safety of thousands of swimmers at the same time, constantly utilizing his knowledge of ocean conditions and marine life.

39. Ori Sela (Israel): Sea swimmer, coach, therapist, pioneer relay swimmer and aquapreneur. His explanation of the micro and macro elements facing ocean and sea swimmers have enabled many to achieve their goals, including the teaching of swimming for those injured and disabled.

40. Borut Strel (Slovenia): Coach, swimmer, clinician, planner and logistic expert. From helping plan the longest stage swims in the world in the most remote locations to serving as a swim guide around the world, his knowledge of myriad marine environments is extensive and comprehensive.

41. Martin Strel (Slovenia): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, extreme adventurer, film protagonist, and camp clinician. His ability to adapt to extreme conditions and solve logistic issues in some of the most difficult aquatic conditions possible helps bring swimming exploits to the masses.

42. Georgios-Ioannis Tsianos, M.D., Ph.D. (Greece): Research scientist, physician, expedition medic and Channel swimmer. His versatility in physical skills and intellectual breath is an inspiration for those who seek adventure and human potential.

43. Christof Wandratsch (Germany): Channel swimmer, professional racer, solo pioneer, ice swimming record holder and event promoter. Pro races, ice swims and pioneering crossings, he can handle any and all conditions at world-class speeds, the ultimate range of aquatic talents.

44. Captain Matthew Webb (Great Britain): Channel swimmer, extreme adventurer, and professional racer. His pioneering first crossing of the English Channel in 1875 was preceded by a naval career and subsequent challenges that ultimately led to his premature passing.

45. Johnny Weissmuller (U.S.A.): 4-time Olympic champion and movie star with a household name. One of the most famous aquatic icons in history utilized his global celebrity status to promote aquatic activities from the pool to the ocean, sprints to long distance marathon swims.

46. Alice Wickham (Solomon Islands): Ocean swimmer, high diver, body surfing promoter, surfboard shaper, and freestyle ambassador. He was a unique aquatic innovator and pioneer in ocean swimming, diving and surfing whose literally brought freestyle to the rest of the world.

47. Patrick Winkler (Brazil): Competitive swimmer, ocean swimmer, stand-up paddler, race promoter and publisher of The Swim Channel Magazine. He promotes open water, stand-up paddling, adventure swimming with a daily radio program and a passionate enthusiasm second to none.

48. Jabez Wolffe (Great Britain): Channel aspirant and coach in the early generations of channel swimming. His never-say-never attitude in the early 20th century was infectious and set the tone for those coaching and snd supporting those who seek aquatic adventures.

49. Doug Woodring (Hong Kong/U.S.A.): Marine environment ambassador, ecology advocate, aquapreneur, ocean event director, paddler, diver, and ocean swimmer. His drive to protect and improve the world’s oceans is embodied in his athletic pursuits and numerous ocean events in Hong Kong.

50. David Yudovin (U.S.A.): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, aquapreneur, benefactor and mariner. He taught many different communities about challenging themselves in their local bodies of water as he pioneered channel swims and donated significant amounts of time and resources to support various charities.

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Steven Munatones