Swimming beyond 10 hours

There are two kinds of swimmers: those that are capable, and keen, to swim beyond 10 hours, and those that are not. That was my conclusion yesterday, after completing the End North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test, aka END-WET, known for being the longest marathon swim in North America.
The swim goes 36 miles / 58 km downstream the Mighty Red River of the North, which divides the states of Minnesota and North Dakota in the USA. During the race briefing on Friday, I learned that given that the river dies in Lake Winnipeg in Canada, swimming downstream means going from South to North (yes, the Earth is round). Geography 1 – Diego 0. 
Unlike any other swim I’ve been, the 36 miles are clearly marked by number labels down from 36 to 1, on the side of the river (on the left shore, luckily for us left breathers) and also on the tracker online. This made it easier to follow, although it also made me more anxious at times: I kept looking for those darn hidden small white signs hoping to be d…

English Channel (video blog)

Quick update on my progress of the Continents Seven challenge, and on my European Challenge - the English Channel, from Dover (England) to Calais (France) at the beginning of July.



Swimming high – in the sky

Last Saturday I completed the third continent on my global journey – South America – by swimming the 7.5km from Isla del Sol (Island of Sun) to Isla de la Luna (Island of Moon) on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. You may think (and so did I) that less than 8km is small feat when compared to the 34km+ English Channel or the 48km Manhattan loop. Make no mistake: swimming at 12,500 feet-high is no joke, and I probably had one of the toughest races in my life. 
This year’s tight schedule didn’t allow me many days of adaptation so we arrived in Copacabana, Bolivia only two days before the race. The headache disappeared after the first day thanks to numerous “mates de coca”, but just walking up the stairs in the hotel was a strenuous activity. I had never been in such a high altitude and the warnings of people like Lynne Cox, the first person to swim in the lake back in 1992 were clear, but I kept good spirits and trust on my training. I even went for…

This time for Africa

It’s been a month since we got back from Oceania and I’ve had a few busy weekends in the USA: I completed a 1km swim in the 4°C waters of New York (and qualified for Antarctica), I swam about 20km in the 14°C waters of California (more on that later) and I took part in a 12km race in the 24°C of Florida – a 20°C difference in waters!
Next Wednesday we will be heading to South Africa to tackle Continent #2. The Freedom Swim, considered the “Everest” to every open water swimmer in South Africa, covers the stretch of water from Robben Island to Cape Town. Distance is not excessive but lower water temperatures as well as abundant marine life (including great white sharks) make it a very challenging swim. It is also a very special year, as Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 years old. I still remember seeing him from afar during his last public appearance at the final match of the 2010 World Cup.

There will be about 60 of us facing the Channel next Saturday – half of us in skins, half o…

Road to Antarctica

How does an ordinary guy from the subtropical Canary Islands, who had never swum in waters colder than 18 degrees, become the US Winter Swimming champion in 100 and 200 Freestyle and qualify for the first ever 1 km swim competition in Antarctica with the world’s best ice swimmers? Just believing in it – and training hard for it.
When I started shaping the Continents Seven project at the end of last year, I knew I would have to speed up and become a “cold swimmer” rapidly. I started doing research on Ice and Winter Swimming, and the different bodies regulating this newish, extreme sport internationally. I did not fully understand the differences and boundaries between the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) and the International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) (I still don't), but I knew that the IISA was organizing a swim in Antarctica in November 2018 and I was quick to sign up for it.

I was the last swimmer to enter the 2018 batch and I had to show I could do so sa…

Thank You Australia

Australia just gave me a lesson I will never forget. I had to go all the way to Down Under to learn that things do not always go down the way we plan and that sometimes you cannot fight against the elements, especially against the sea. It is the first time in my life I haven’t finished a race, and the first time in my life I’ve cried in the water.
The week leading to the Port to Pub – i.e. the longer version of the Rottnest Channel Swim – could not have gone better. I won my age group and ended 3rd overall in a shorter race in New Zealand, I trained in both Bondi and Manly beaches in Sydney, and I was feeling very strong both physically and mentally for the 25km solo in Perth. On Friday morning, we attended the briefing to learn that conditions were not optimal due to strong winds, but that we were going ahead anyway.
I didn’t think much about it – one thing an open water swimmer must be used to is the unpredictability of weather and other elements. Three weeks ago, and for the first…

Let the Games begin!

I am just a couple of days away from starting my global journey and it is hard to keep the excitement. I have put down a significant amount of training, planning – and yes, investment – behind my Continents Seven project and I feel very much ready to start tackling continents, one by one.
My first major swim is going to be the so-called Port to Pub in Western Australia, i.e. the longest organized race in Oceania with 25km between Perth and Rottnest Island. The slightly shorter route of 19.7km was covered by the Rotto Swim last week and over 100 participants had to be taken out of the water after a 4-metre-long great white shark was sighted circling some of the swimmers. It is the first time this happens in 60 years but it is a good reminder that we sometimes swim in hostile environments that are not made for humans. If anything, this warning pumps further my adrenaline.
Flying from New York to Perth is not easy, so I will be breaking the trip in different legs and training in Waikiki…