If you’re looking for the challenge of a life-time, you’ll find many long distance, open water swimming routes to choose from, but here are five of our favourites. These routes, together with the Strait of Gibraltar and Catalina Channel crossings, make up the famous ‘Ocean’s Seven’ group.
1. The English Channel
This international shipping channel lies between England and France, and the narrowest section – the Strait of Dover – stretches for 34 km.
Most swimmers cross between Shakespeare’s Cliff, near Dover, and Cap Gris Nez, near Calais, between June and September. Even at the height of the summer, however, low water temperatures can cause swimmers to fail. Strong tides and currents, changeable weather conditions, shipping traffic, jellyfish and debris in the water can also make crossing the Channel a tough challenge, but more than one thousand people have succeeded.
2. The Cook Strait
The 26 km wide Cook Strait divides New Zealand’s North Island from its South Island. Only a few swimmers attempt the crossing each year and there are a number of factors that can cause problems.
The waters can be chilly, dropping to as low as 14°C, and the ‘Roaring Forties’, a strong westerly wind system, can cause huge waves. The Cook Straits are also home to jellyfish and sharks – although if you’re thinking about making the crossing, you’ll be relieved to know that there have been no recorded shark attacks on swimmers in these waters.
3. The Irish Channel (or North Channel)
Attempting an Irish Channel crossing is possibly the toughest test that a long distance swimmer can set themselves – but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Conditions in the Irish Channel, which stretches for 33.7 km between Ireland and Scotland, can be treacherous, thanks to icy waters, strong currents, frequent storms and the presence of many jellyfish.
However, the sense of achievement to be gained from becoming one of the few people to have successfully completed the crossing can be a huge motivational tool for swimmers looking for a real challenge.
4. The Tsugaru Channel
The shortest route across the Tsugaru Channel, which separates Japan’s main island from the island of Hokkaido, is only 12 km long, making it the shortest of our five routes. Don’t let that fool you, though – swimmers attempting the crossing can face many difficulties along the way.
Strong currents can sweep swimmers off-course and the waters are also home to tiger sharks, squid and sea snakes. If you’re very lucky you might even encounter the goblin shark, thought to be prehistoric.
5. The Molokai Channel
Also known as the Kawai Channel, the Molokai Channel lies between Hawaiian Islands of Moloka’i and O’ahu, and swimmers attempting the 48.1 km crossing can enjoy some spectacular views during their journey.
The route is extremely challenging, however – the tropical climate, wind and large waves can all take their toll, and the deep waters are home to hammerhead and tiger sharks and deadly jellyfish.
Author: This post was written on behalf of Simply Swim UK, online open water swimwear retailer, specialising in a range of Speedo swimwear and trisuits.
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