"The Unratified" - Chronicles of Incredible Swims: The Tale of Milton Brest's Panama to Colombia Caribbean Sea Swim

“The Unratified” – Chronicles of Incredible Swims: The Tale of Milton Brest’s Panama to Colombia Caribbean Sea Swim

In the vast sport of open water swimming, there are tales of incredible feats, of swimmers pushing boundaries, and of journeys that inspire awe. Yet, not all of these tales meet the stringent criteria set by the rules for ratification. This series, “The Unratified,” delves into these remarkable stories, highlighting the challenges we face in ratifying certain swims and emphasizing the importance of meticulous pre-swim planning.

The Swim: Milton Brest: Panama to Colombia (Caribbean Sea)

Milton Brest is an open water swimmer from South Africa who is a member of the Madswimmers of South Africa. He has completed and participated in swims such as Alcatraz, Robben Island crossings (4 times), Double Robben Island crossing, Sun City Swims (15 times), Strait of Gibraltar, the Dead Sea Swim and the Great Shark Swim.

Brest undertook a swim on 18 April 2023, covering approximately 5 kilometers from La Miel in Panama to Sapzurro in Colombia, navigating around the peninsula marking the border between the two countries.

The swim started at 12:53 pm and concluded by 2:15 pm. The swim’s route was documented using 11 media items (1 photo and 10 videos) from a GoPro camera operated by Juan Carlos Blanco.

The GPS metadata from these items, extracted using the OPANDA IEXIF2 program and the Telemetry Extractor website, provided the swim’s coordinates. (Below are not raw photos only for this article’s display)

Post-swim, Milton with master diver Juan Carlos Blanco and the Colombian coast guard’s Tkesp Sanguino Reyes Javier in Sapzurro.

Swim Details:

Location: La Miel, Panama to Sapzurro, Colombia (Caribbean Sea)
Date: April 18, 2023
Distance: 5 kilometers
Direction: From North America to South America
Equipment: Silicone cap, goggles, three-quarter neoprene pants
Style: Freestyle, one-way
Background: Milton completed a swim from La Miel in Panama to Sapzurro in Colombia, crossing from North to South America. The swim was authenticated by Commander Christoff Theunissen and Admiral Francois Du Toit from the South African Navy, who consulted the International Hydrographic Organization. Milton seeks ratification from the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) for this swim.

Evidence Presented:

GoPro, with 11 specific coordinates provided.
Pictures and videos corresponding to each coordinate.
Additional coordinates, pictures, and videos available
Two years of planning involving various governments, coast guards, and support teams.
Local boats used for the swim lacked advanced GPS systems.

Communication with WOWSA:

WOWSA emphasized the importance of having a GPS tracker and an observer for ratification.
Provided coordinates extracted from GoPro as evidence.
Milton has previously completed notable swims.
Milton contacted WOWSA last minute before swim.
Milton sought ratification, emphasizing the uniqueness of his recent swim and the extensive preparations involved.

Additional Information:

List of the 11 photo coordinates

8.668167, -77.368583
8.677361, -77.367222
8.676911, -77.364012
8.675855, -77.359987
8.675729, -77.358488
8.673349, -77.357669
8.672500, -77.357907
8.670979, -77.358113
8.668366, -77.358707
8.664178, -77.359529
8.661544, -77.362439

Reason for Non-Ratification: Lack of GPS tracker, absence of an observer’s log, unclear rules followed, course not approved etc.

What Could Have Made It Ratifiable: In the case of Milton, had the observer worn a Garmin and maintained a detailed log and the course confirmed and rules followed clarified, the swim could have been ratified. Such small yet crucial details can make all the difference between a swim being recognized officially or remaining in the annals of personal achievements.


The world of open water swimming is filled with tales of amazing swims. While WOWSA aims to recognize and celebrate every achievement, the rules set forth ensure the authenticity and credibility of each ratified swim. “The Unratified” is not about undermining these incredible feats but rather a call to all swimmers to understand the importance of preparation. Proper planning, adherence to guidelines, and attention to detail can ensure that your swim is not only a personal achievement but a recognized achievement in the global OWS community. We hope these swims get the recognition they deserve and send a message that swimmers prepare, and dive into their next adventures prepared.

Congratulations to Milton Brest on his personal achievement!

Resources: Timestamp Report and letter

Discussion & Ratification of Milton Brest's Swim

Should we discuss and possibly ratify Milton Brest's swim with the rules & regulations committee?