Several years ago, open water swimming advocate Steven Munatones felt the sport needed a shot in the arm to increase its visibility and allure, especially as open water swimming gained a spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Inspired by mountaineering's seven summits, Munatones decided to compile a similar list for open water swimming—the Oceans Seven, a list of seven channel swims around the world that represent some of the most daunting challenges on the planet. The list is an incredible collection of swims for hardcore endurance athletes. Each of the swims exceed 10K in length, and all come with their own set of challenges that make each attempt both dangerous and rewarding.
The complete list has been completed by just four swimmers, though Adam Walker is just two swims away from becoming the fifth. Here is a look at each one:
English Channel1 of 8
Probably the most famous long-distance swim in the world, the 21-mile crossing at the Strait of Dover between England and France has been done more than 1,000 times dating back to 1875. It's not easy, though. The length alone is a challenge, but it's made harder by swift currents that force swimmers to tack on many more miles than just the straight-line distance. Water temperature is about 60 degrees during the summer months when the conditions are most favorable for crossing.
Strait of Gibraltar2 of 8
It's one of the shorter swims on the list, but it might be one of the more challenging. The narrow strait is where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet, and it is the shortest path between Europe and Africa. It measures about 8.9 miles and has strong currents that complicate the crossing and actually makes a longer route more ideal. The swim (from Spain to Morocco) also involves boat traffic and marine life ranging from whales to porpoises. According to swim2africa.com, only about 500 people have ever successfully made this crossing.
Catalina Channel3 of 8
Connecting Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland in Los Angeles County, this 21-mile trek is well-known among endurance athletes. Hundreds have completed the swim, but it's not easy—water temperature and currents are a factor and winds and marine wildlife can be as well.
Cook Strait4 of 8
This 14-mile-wide strait separates the north and south islands of New Zealand. The water is cold, and jellyfish stings are a threat. While nobody has been attacked, shark sightings are very common for those attempting the crossing. Just 71 successful crossings have been made, by 61 swimmers, according to Openwaterpedia.
Molokai Channel5 of 8
Hawaii has several channels between all the islands, but the one between Oahu and Molokai has proven to be one of the more difficult to swim. The crossing is 26 miles long and the currents and wildlife (including many sharks) are of concern. The water is warm and the scenery is beautiful, but the swim is one of the hardest in the world.
North Channel6 of 8
The northernmost swim on the list, this channel connecting Ireland and Scotland has been successfully crossed just eight times in more than 75 tries. The unpredictable weather and predictably cold waters makes hypothermia the number one threat, though jellyfish are also known to attack. The ideal routes range from 11 to 21 miles.
Tsugaru Channel7 of 8
The main island of Japan (Honshu) and the northernmost island (Hokkaido) are separated by this 12-mile-wide strait. The currents are extremely strong, and marine life like sharks, sea snakes and squids are common. The channel has been successfully crossed 16 times, most of them in the last 10 years. (Photo: Adam Walker)