The Toughest, Gnarliest Open Water Swimmers Around

The Toughest, Gnarliest Open Water Swimmers Around

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Brian Suddeth, an American butterflyer, updated the global open water swimming butterfly list.

His calculations below list many of the speediest and hardiest distance butterflyers in the world. The list shows how fast they are in miles per hour (mph) in various swims around the globe, regardless if they swam in a river (faster due to currents), a lake, a sea, a bay or the ocean.

If we compare world-class marathon runners with these open water swimming butterflyers, the world-class runners can traverse a distance 6.23 times as far as world-class butterfly open water swimmers. Suddeth says, “At the bottom line, it seems to me that while FINA defines marathon swims as 10 km and over, when doing butterfly in the open water, the target distance for a ‘marathon class’ swim is more like 5 kilometers by speed and effort based on the performances of the very best.”

1. Julie Bradshaw: 3.01 mph (4.85 kph) in 2011 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, 28.5 miles (45.8 km) in 9:28
2. James di Donato and Jonathon di Donato: 2.93 mpg (4.72 kph) at the 1983 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, 28.50 miles (45.86 km) in 9:43
3. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros: 2.67 mph (4.29 kph) at the 2012 Ria de Navia, 3.11 miles (5 km) in 1:10
4. Natalie Lambert (age 14): 2.57 mph (4.14 kph) at Lake Erie in 1993, 20.00 miles (32.187 km) in 7:47
5. Dan Projansky: 2.45 mph (3.95 kph) at the 2013 Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test, 27 miles (43 km) in 14:30
6. Sylvain Estadieu: 2.31 mph (3.72 kph) at the 2013 Lee Swim, 1.24 miles (2 km) in 0:32:28
7. Gianni Golini: 2.30 mph (3.71 kph) in Strait of Messina in 1977, 1.99 miles (3.2 km) in 51:49
8. James di Donato and Jonathon di Donato: 2.02 mph (3.25 kph) in a Bahamas to Palm Beach, Florida attempt (60 mile goal) in 1985, 40.6 miles (65.339 km) in 20:06
9. Sylvain Estadieu: 1.95 mph (3.13 kph) in Baltic Sea in 2010, 3.73 miles (6 km) in 1:55
10. Sylvain Estadieu: 1.94 mph (3.12 kph) in 2012 Lake Delsjˆn in Gothenburg, Germany, 3.11 miles (5 km) in 1:36
11. Gianni Golini: 1.93 mph (3.11 kph) in Strait of Messina – 2XM in 1977, 4.50 miles (6.5 km) in 2:23:56
12. Dan Projansky: 1.86 mph (3.00 kph) in 2012 Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test, 27 miles (43 km) in 14:30
13. Sylvain Estadieu: 1.86 mph (2.99 kph) in [[Sandycove Island in 2013, 13.92 miles (22.4 km) in 7:30
14. Julie Bradshaw: 1.85 mph (2.97 kph) in Lough Erne in 2006, 10.50 miles (16.89 km) in 5:41
15. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros: 1.83 mph (2.94 kph) in Ruidera in 2012, 5.78 miles (9.3 km) in 3:01
16. Graham Barratt: 1.82 mph (2.93 kph) in Lake Bala in 1992, 3.25 miles (5.23 km) in 1:47
17. Charles Tupitza (age 58): 1.76 mph (2.84 kph) at 2013 Jim Mcdonnell Lake Swim, Reston, Virginia, 1.00 mi (1.609 km) in 0:34:03
18. Francesca Mazari: 1.73 mph (2.79 kph) in the 1992 Strait of Messina – 2XF, 4.50 miles (6.5 km) in 2:36:34
19. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros: 1.72 mph (2.77 kph) in Iruelas Valley in 2012, 5.59 miles (9 km) in 3:15
20. Julie Bradshaw: 1.72 mph (2.76 kph) in Lake Windermere in 1991, 10.50 miles (16.9 km) in 6:07.3
21. Larry Paulson (age 64): 1.70 mph (2.74 kph) at 2013 Jim Mcdonnell Lake Swim, Reston, Virginia, 1.00 miles (1.609) in 0:35:12
22. Julie Bradshaw: 1.68 mph (2.71 kph) in Coniston in 1995, 5.25 miles (8.44 km) in 3:07
23. Sylvain Estadieu: 1.67 mph (2.69 kph) in lake Delsjˆn in 2013, 13.36 miles (21.5 km) in 8:00
24. Vicki Keith: 1.67 mph (2.68 kph) in Sydney Harbour, 22.50 miles (36.21 km) in 13:30
25. Julie Bradshaw: 1.62 mph (2.60 kph) in Ullswater in 1996, 7.25 miles (11.66 km) in 4:29
26. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros: 1.61 mph (2.59 kph) in the 2012 International Crossing 10,000 Cullera, 6.21 miles (10 km) in 3:52
27. Kathryn Mason: 1.59 mph (2.56 kph) at the 2012 Irish Long Distance Championship in Lough Erne, Ireland, 15.53 miles (25 km) in 9:45
28. Robin Lajoie: 1.55 mph (2.49 kph) in a Welland, Ontario event, 6.21 miles (10 km) in 4:00:37
29. Julie Bradshaw: 1.48 mph (2.37 kph) across the English Channel in 2002, 21 miles (33.7 km) in 14:18
30. Robin Lajoie: 1.44 mph (2.32)in a Welland, Ontario event, 6.21 mi (10 km) in 4:18:00
31. Vicki Keith: 1.43 mph (2.30 kph) in Lake Winnipeg, 18.57 miles (28.9 km) in 13:00
32. Vicki Keith: 1.42 mph (2.29 kph) across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 19.88 miles (32 km) in 14:00
33. Brian Suddeth: 1.41 mph (2.26 kph) in the 2011 Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, 1 mile (1.60 km) in 42:46
34. Brian Suddeth: 1.40 mph (2.25 kph) in the 2013 Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, 1 mile (1.60 km) in 43:00
35. Vicki Keith: 1.37 mph (2.21 kph) across the Catalina Channel in 1989, 20.2 miles (32.5 km) in 14:43.3
36. Brenton Williams: 1.35 mph (2.17 kph) in the 2012 Deep Blue Invitational Swim, 4.97 miles (8 km) in 3:41
37. Sylvain Estadieu: 1.29 mph (2.08 kph) across Lake Vidˆstern in 2012, 8.39 miles (13.5 km) in 6:30
38. Julie Bradshaw: 1.26 mph (2.03 kph) swam a Coniston 2-Way in 2000, 11 miles (17.70 km) in 8:42
39. Sylvain Estadieu: 1.26 mph (2.03 kph) across the English Channel in 2013, 21 miles (33.7 km) in 16:41
40. Philip Martin: 1.25 mph (2.02 kph) in a 2001 Rottnest Channel, 12.24 miles (19.7 km) in 9:45.1
41. Julie Bradshaw: 1.22 mph (1.96 kph) across Lake Bala in 2006, 6.50 miles (10.46 km) in 5:02
42. James di Donato and Jonathon di Donato: 1.11 mph (1.79 kph) from Fort Lauderdale to Pompano Beach, Florida, 16.50 miles (26.554 km) in 14:50
43. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros: 1.11 mph (1.79 kph) across the Strait of Gibraltar in 2013, 8.70 miles (14 km) in 7:05
44. Vicki Keith: 1.03 mph (1.66 kph) across Lake Ontario, 32 miles (51.5 km) in 31:00
45. Vicki Keith: 0.96 mph (1.54 kph) across the English Channel, 21 miles (33.7 km) in 23:33
46. Vicki Keith: 0.78 mph (1.26 kph) across Lake Ontario, 49.83 miles (80.2 km) in 63:40

The average speed for these 17 butterflyers across these 46 events is 1.69 mph (2.73 kph). Whether the butterfly was done in a lake or river, bay or ocean, their swims are all very impressive. Very very impressive.

Photo by Clive Wright shows Brenton Williams swimming 17 km butterfly in South Africa.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association