6 of the best open water swims on the planet

These open water swims will get you out of the chlorinated environment and endless black line of a swimming pool. Open water swimming has become increasingly popular in recent years, and there are thousands of organized events that cater to these enthusiasts. Here are six of the best open water swims that can provide the perfect incentive to get you into training and swimming in open water.

Bosphorus International Swim

The start of the intercontinental crossing. Photo by swimtrek
The start of the intercontinental crossing. Photo: Courtesy of swimtrek
Location: Istanbul's Hellespont Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara in Turkey.
Description: Organized by the National Olympic Committee of Turkey and started in 1989 with 68 swimmers, the swim has recently grown to 4,892 swimmers from dozens of countries.
Distance: 4.4 miles, however exceptionally strong tides and a maximum of 90 minutes to complete the crossing mean many swimmers don’t finish.
Date: July 28
Swim fact: The strait separates Europe and Asia. It’s the only place you can swim between continents and was first swam by Lord Byron in 1810.
Website: www.swimhellespont.com/

La Jolla Rough Water Swim

The contestants head out through the cove. Photo by La Jolla Rough Water Swim
The contestants head out through the cove. Photo: Courtesy of La Jolla Rough Water Swim
Location: La Jolla Cove, north of San Diego, CA.
Description: There is a beach start and finish in (and around) the cold waters of La Jolla Cove, which is a natural amphitheater for ocean swims and contains abundant marine life and kelp.
Distance: Choose between a 250 yard, one mile and three mile course.
Date: July (date tbd)
Swim fact: The race was first done in 1916 and also goes under the nickname, the Big Wet One. It is considered the USA’s premier rough water race.
Website: www.ljrws.com

Manhattan Island Swim

A swimmer takes in the Manhattan skyline (well every second breathe). Photo NYC Swim
A swimmer takes in the Manhattan skyline (well every second breathe). Photo: Courtesy of NYC Swim
Location: New York City, U.S.A.
Description: A circumnavigation of the island of Manhattan, starting and finishing near Wall Street in view of the Statue of Liberty.
Distance: 28.5 miles
Date: June or July
Swim fact: The Field is limited to 25 solo swimmers and 18 relay teams, and often sells out in 45 minutes. All swimmers must also do a qualifying race.
Website: www.nycswim.org

St. Croix Coral Reef Swim

There is no prettier starting gate in open water swimming. Photo St Croix Coral Reef Swim
There is no prettier starting gate in open water swimming. Photo: Courtesy of St Croix Coral Reef Swim
Location: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Description: Swim from Buck Island to The Buccaneer, a luxury destination resort on St. Croix’s east end taking in one of the Caribbean’s largest barrier coral reefs.
Distance: Two mile and five mile swims.
Date: October (date tbd)
Description: Spectacular blue water is home to the largest island barrier coral reef in the Caribbean,
Swim fact: This swim is through some of the most pristine waters in the world and proceeds are donated to the Nature Conservancy.
Website: www.swimrace.com

Alcatraz Challenge

The water's cold, but the views of the Golden Gate are amazing. Photo Alcatraz Challenge
The water’s cold, but the views of the Golden Gate are amazing. Photo: Courtesy of Alcatraz Challenge
Location: From Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay to East Beach near Presidio Park in San Francisco.
Description: The swim takes in views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the picturesque San Francisco skyline, however also features strong currents, abundant marine life and very cold water.
Distance: 2.4 miles
Date: May 29
Swim fact: Gary Emich has completed over 1000 Alcatraz swims, all without a wetsuit.
Website: www.alcatrazchallenge.tricalifornia.com

Swim to Bestival

It certainly is one heck of a party. Photo: Courtesy of Bestival
It certainly is one heck of a party. Photo: Courtesy of Bestival
Location: Swim from mainland UK to the Isle of Wight, the location for the annual Bestival festival, one of the UK's biggest music festivals that is famous for its fancy dress themes.
Description: The first swimmers braved the cold, grey waters of the Solent to reach the festival in 2006. Not only do you save on ferry fares, the swim has raised over $100,000 for charity.
Distance: 1.3 miles
Date: September 8
Swim Fact: This tract of the English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe and only 115 swimmers have ever made the crossing.
Website: www.swim2bestival.com

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