Swimming Outside Your Comfort Zone: The World’s Most Difficult Open Water Routes

The Straight of Dover

The Strait of Dover

Open-water swimming is as thrilling as it is dangerous. Novice and regular swimmers should not dare swimming into difficult open waters, unless they want to risk never returning from such an adventure. Expert swimmers can maneuver themselves around the countless, uncontrolled factors that arise when swimming in an open body of water. Waves, currents, frigid temperatures, lack of visibility, and cramping can all endanger your swimming adventure. Knowing how to handle these difficult situations distinguish experienced swimmers from non-experienced swimmers. Once swimmers graduate to more challenging open waters, their skills are tested to the max. Some open waters routes are more dangerous than others, considering their geographic locations, and proximities to bodies of land, or larger bodies of water. Using information compiled from active.com, below is a list of the most challenging open waters for the most hardcore swimmers to venture into. Each of these routes has its own unique challenges, but all surpass 10k in length. Check them out here:

Strait of Dover – England/France

Located between England and France, the 21-mile crossing at the Strait of Dover has been swam many times since 1875. In fact, the Strait of Dover has been crossed over 1000 times, making it the most famous long distance swim in history. Although the length of the swim makes the route difficult in and of itself, the strait’s swift currents often force swimmers to add a few more miles onto the initial 21 mile stretch.

Strait of Gibraltar – Spain/Morroco

One of the more shorter swims on this list, the Strait of Gibraltar measures only about 9 miles in width, disconnecting the continents of Europe and Africa. Don’t let it’s length fool you, the Strait of Gibraltar is the exact point where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet, creating currents that are much more difficult to navigate through than many of the routes on this list. Located between Spain and Morocco, the route also has a great deal of maritime traffic, making it extra difficult to swim through. According to Active.com, only 500 people have been able to successfully swim the strait.

Cook Strait – New Zealand

This 14-mile stretch is located between the north and southern islands of New Zealand. Considering its location in the southern hemisphere, the waters are often very cold, and marine life is very active. Jellyfish stings are a threat, and shark sightings while attempting to cross are more common, than rare. Swimmers take extra precautions when navigating these waters.

Strait of Magellan

The Strait of Magellan is only 2.5 miles wide, drastically smaller than many of the other straits on this list. However, the inhospitable climate between the southern Chilean mainland and Tierra del Fuego create some of the most turbulent waters on the planet. Waters drop below 40 degrees depending on the season, winds reach up to 180 knotts, and waves can reach heights of up to 20 feet. The weather is completely unpredictable, causing fierce currents, and even whirlpools. Since January 2015, only 22 individuals have swam across the strait of Magellan, including famed Chilean swimmer, Victor “Tiburon” Contreras.

Tsugaru Channel

Separating the main island of Japan (Honshu), and the northernmost island (Hokkaido), the Tsugaru Channel measures 12 miles wide. The great deal of marine life including sharks, jellyfish, sea snakes, and squid, makes this stretch of open water one of the most dangerous in the world. Currents are also extremely strong, allowing only 16 successful swims across the dangerous channel.

Other perilous swims include: The Northern Channel between Scotland and IrelandMolokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai Islands – Hawaii, and the Catalina Channel separating mainland Southern California and Santa Catalina Island. 

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