WOWSA swim event

We’ve seen extraordinary records broken in sports disciplines across the world, but nothing made a “splash” quite like the tidal of record holders who were honored at the World Open Water Swim Association (WOWSA) last weekend.

With an official adjudicator in attendance at the Redondo Beach venue in Los, Angeles, California (USA) a grand total of 15 record holders were recognized for breaking enduring aquatic record titles.

WOWSA swim event

These titles touched across the world’s biggest extremes – which included frigid ice water swims all the way to long-distance swims around exotic islands.

As this year’s annual GWR Day draws nearer, we take a deep dive into some incredible record holders who have recently showcased what it truly means to have a “spirit of adventure”.

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The WOWSA association prides itself on celebrating all types swimmers who are passionate about open water swimming and achieving new milestones – so it’s no wonder they wanted to blow this year’s event out of the water.

Aside from welcoming world champion swimmers from around the globe to be honored at a sunset ceremony, this year was the first time that two live record attempts were occurring at the event.

Including WOWSA members Yuko Matsuzaki (Japan) and Pablo Fernandez Alvarez (Spain), both would be attempting enduring record titles that put their strength to the test.

Yuko attempted the record for the longest continuous swim in a counter-current pool, aiming for a record of 24 hours.

Beginning at 8 AM Saturday morning, she dived into a heated tank an immediately began her journey in becoming a Guinness World Records title holder.

She would accrue a five-minute break for every hour she swam, allowing her to stretch, rest, and re-nourish.

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Yuko’s motivation was simple: her goal of becoming a record holder overshadowed everything else.

“It is just one 24-hour period of my life, but I have always wanted to be in the Guinness World Records [family]. It was a book that I read from cover to cover when I was a kid,” mentioned Yuko.

She had a strong support system from her close friends, even one who she hadn’t seen in 30 years appeared to cheer her on.

Yuko was fairly certain she could beat the record with a focused mindset – as she had previously done this attempt before when she had just begun swimming.

Many would cringe at the thought of swimming hours tirelessly without rest, but for Yuko, it was her greatest passion. She describes the feeling of being in the water as being free and overwhelmingly happy.

It wouldn’t be until later during the 19th and 20th hours of the swim that she would actually start to see hallucinations from fatigue, including sea dragons and coral landscapes.

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While her attempt continued over the next day, Pablo Alvarez was preparing off shores for his record – fastest time to swim 5 km while wearing leg iron/shackles.

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He decided to undergo this challenge as a way of bringing awareness to oceanic pollution.

“I see how human behavior is affecting marine life. What I wanted to highlight is how the fish feel like in the water, they feel imprisoned, so I wanted to do a swim with shackles just to emulate what our marine life is like,” said Pablo. 

After surrendering the key to adjudicator Kim Partrick, Pablo dove off the dock and began his tiresome swim, completing the record after 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Although the temperature in sunny California ranged a warm 80 degrees above water, the ocean was rather cold, causing Pablo to stop at the 5K mark exactly because his legs were getting concerningly cold due to lack of movement.

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Nonetheless, he managed to persevere through waves of pain along his record-breaking journey.

This marks Pablo’s second Guinness World Records title, as he achieved his first earlier this year for the Fastest 100 km swim in open water, which he achieved in 12 hours and 21 minutes.

Onshore – Yuko concluded her attempt with utter fatigue but felt rather accomplished knowing she had earned her first Guinness World Records titles.

The other record recipients who were honored at the event were presented their official certificate –being recognized for the vast ambition and adventure they experienced in attempting and succeeding their Guinness World Records title:

  • Longest duration swimming in the open sea (marathon swim) - Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia), 76 hours 30 minutes
  • Most swim crossings of the Catalina Channel by an individual - Hank Wise (USA), seven crossings
  • Fastest swim crossing of the Catalina Channel in relay - Parks Wesson, Ted Bramble, Hank Wise, Lyle Nalli, Matty Mitchell and Lexie Kelly, with pace swimmer/back-up swimmer Samantha Sears (all USA); 6 hours 53 minutes 4 seconds
  • Fastest circumnavigation swim around Barbados – Cameron Bellamy, 40 hours 46 minutes
  • Fastest stage swim of Lake Malawi – Martin Hobbs (South Africa), 63 days
  • Fastest circumnavigation swim around Pitcairn Island – Alex Kostich (USA), 19 hours 8 minutes
  • Fastest circumnavigation swim around Easter Island – Sarah Ferguson (South Africa), 19 hours 8 minutes
  • Fastest Leme – Pontal swim - Glauco Luís de Oliveira Rangel (Brazil), 7 hours 13 minutes
  • Fastest swim Crossing of Santa Monica Bay - Amy Appelhans Gubser (USA), 17 hours 6 minutes
  • Oldest person to complete the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims - Pat Gallant-Charette (USA), 68 years 180 days
  • Fastest Ice Mile swim (male) - Rostislav Vítek (Czech Republic), 20 minutes 29 seconds
  • Fastest Ice Mile swim (female) - Magda Okurková (Czech Republic), 24 minutes 5 seconds
  • Longest distance ice swim (female) - Carmel Collins (Ireland), 3.30 kilometres (2.05 miles)

While the swimmers who attended traveled from other parts of the world, they all came together to celebrate one commonality: a love for the sport of swimming.

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Many gave speeches upon receiving their certificates, explaining the dedication, practice, and motivation that was needed in order to break a record – a few even alluded to achieving more titles in the year ahead!

Want to channel your inner Spirit of Adventure like the WOWSA record holders? Apply to break your own record for GWR Day this year.

GWR day