One of the most common questions we’re asked is: ‘How good a swimmer do I need to be to go on a trip?’ The truth is, we have trips for all abilities (check out our Short Swims options) and even non-swimmers can get a kick out of riding boats, taking local walks, sightseeing and maybe even hopping in for a buoyant snorkel.
At one end of the scale, we have our newbies – out for the fun of it and ideally looking to meet like-minded travellers, while escaping to a fantastic location (some sun doesn’t go amiss either!). At the other end, we have sea-hardened merpeople, who you readily assume must’ve descended from fish. Usually, they've just signed up for an upcoming 10k+ endurance event - ready to refine their technique and put the miles in at sea in varying conditions. It helps to have others in the water who are training as well. Of course, nothing beats swimming alongside someone who you can pace and share the experience with.
'We’re talking to all of you. There’s nothing like having a big event on the horizon to get you stuck into your training...'
In this blog, you might think we’re only talking to those already at the fish-descendent end of our scale. In fact, we’re talking to all of you. There’s nothing like having a big event on the horizon to get you stuck into your training. Nerves are very healthy after all. They help to hone our discipline and encourage us to focus more intently on whatever it is we’re doing. And, it’s not like all these feats below will take hours and hours to accomplish. Some of these swims are very realistic targets for newcomers - even those who’ve only just fallen in love with open water.
To learn more about how to prepare for these events, explore our list of expertly-guided courses and Coaching Camps:
Coaching Camps: Ideal for anyone who is looking to build stamina, strength and endurance through long distance training. Our camps give swimmers the opportunity to hone their open water skills, backed by supervised pool and sea sessions, with the support of qualified and experienced swim coaches.
Introduction To Open Water: These camps are perfect for relatively new swimmers, looking to develop a strong foundation in open water technique. They are great for that much-needed confidence boost early on!
Open Water Development: Our Progression camps enable you to evolve your swimming experience and develop strong fundamentals as you explore the open water further, or push on to get race ready.
Now, fasten your goggles tight and take a deep breath... it’s time to plunge into our 30 Epic Events For Marathon Swimmers:
For The Brave
The Oceans Seven
For the most elite open water swimmers, the Oceans Seven is a marathon swimming challenge consisting of seven gruelling channel swims - similar to the Seven Summits for mountaineers, which are the tallest mountains in each of the seven continents:
English Channel: 33.8 km (21 miles) crossing between England and France, often referred to as the 'Everest' of swimming. This is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, criss-crossed by massive cargo ships every day. The tidal shifts are notorious for whipping up ruthless currents and the water is usually cold (around 15C)
Catalina Channel: 32.3 km (20 miles) between Catalina Island and the Californian mainland. There are strong winds and currents. Also, the migration routes of whales and dolphins pass through the course, so there's always a chance you might have some bulky company in the water
Strait of Gibraltar - 14.4 km (9 miles) between Spain and Morocco. This is often described as the easiest (none are easy!) of the crossings - it's considerably shorter than the others. There are plenty of obstacles along the way with unpredictable weather, high winds and more big freighters
North Channel - 34.5 km (21.4 miles) between Ireland and Scotland (Irish Triple Crown). The channel is 34 km wide and the seas are wild and rough, with daunting blooms of lion’s mane jellyfish and water that drops as low as 11C
Kaiwi Channel - 42 km (26 miles) between Molokai and Oahu. This is definitely the longest crossing! It can take over 24 hours to get across and heavy currents can sap a swimmer's strength in seconds. Throw in a few Pacific sharks and you've got plenty to be nervous about as you leave the shore at Molokai
Cook Strait - 22.5 km (14 miles) between the North and South Island of New Zealand. This strait is ruffled with rough currents and powerful tidal flows. Motion sickness and cold water (about 16C) are ever-present dangers. There are sharks too, but stories abound of swimmers being protected by dolphins as they cross
Tsugaru Strait - 19.5 km (12.1 miles) between Honshu and Hokkaido, Japan. This crossing unfolds over a deep channel with dragging currents as water is disgorged from the Sea of Japan into the Pacific. Squid, sharks and even snakes have been sighted here over the years as well
For US Masters Swimmers
(USMS) Course Descriptions
US Masters is a national non-profit for around 65,000 Masters swimmers with memberships. There are 52 Local Masters Swimming Committees and 1,500 Masters swimming clubs. Members enjoy sanctioned events, insurance and other exclusive material. The organisation will contest five open water national championships in 2023:
July 12: USMS Middle-Distance Open Water Nationals in Lake Oahe, South Dakota
July 13: USMS 2-Mile Cable Open Water Nationals in Foster Lake, Oregon
July 15: USMS Marathon-Distance Open Water Nationals in Applegate Lake, Oregon
July 10-17 USMS Long-Distance Open Water Nationals in Lake Mission Viejo, California
July 10-17 USMS Sprint-Distance Open Water Nationals in Lake Mission Viejo, California
For Lake Lovers
Iconic Point-to-Points In Freshwater
Arguably, these are the best-known lake swims in the world, with vast bodies of clear water and the kind of scree-scarred scenery and forests that make the hours slide smoothly by:
Lake Geneva: 43-mile international swim across the full length of Lake Geneva, usually coordinated by the Lake Geneva Swimming Association (LGSA) with permission from authorities in Switzerland and France.
SCAR Swim: Swim the 4 Lakes of Arizona, which includes... Saguara Lake (9.5 miles) Canyon Lake (9 miles) Apache Lake (17 miles) and Roosevelt Lake (6 miles). Many consider this a stepping-stone to the most challenging swims in the world, like the English and Catalina Channels
Lake Zurich: The 16-mile Lake Zurich Marathon Swim is an annual race from Rapperswil to Zurich, Switzerland. It is organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, surviving the pandemic to continue on as one of the oldest marathon swim races in the world
Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean: Next up, we have this 20-mile freshwater scramble in Canada, which always takes place on the last Saturday of July, with competitors leaving from Péribonka and swimming across to the other side of Lac St-Jean in the beautiful Laurentian Highlands
Lake Tahoe: You can either swim the length (21 miles) or width (12 miles) of this stunning body of water, nicknamed 'Big Blue'. It is also one of the deepest alpine lakes in the world, with vivid water clarity and white sand beaches!
Lake Windermere: It's an 11-mile One Way Swim from Fell Foot Park at the southern end to the northern end at Brathay Hall. Fed by rivers that tumble down the surrounding fells, this is the largest natural lake in England and the best known of all the Lake District long distance swim spots
For Coastal Warriors
Island Hopping & River Riding
Get ready to roam rivers, bays and island coastlines! These epic open water races stand out as much for what's in the water as for the iconic landmarks that surround you:
The Round Jersey swim is an anti-clockwise 40-mile circumnavigation of the entire island. The swim starts at Elizabeth Castle breakwater and hugs the coast all the way around and back to the breakwater, some 10-12 hours later. Alternatively, there is the marathon Jersey to France swim (16 miles)
First launched in 1961, the Santa Fe-Coronda aka Coronda River Aquatic Marathon is a 35-mile open water race on the Coronda and Salado rivers in Argentina. During the race, swimmers encounter the three cities of the Santa Fe province - Santa Fe, Santo Tomé and Coronda
The Around Manhattan Swim is a 45+ km (28.5 miles) marathon swim, also known as the '20 Bridges Manhattan Swim'. It is a full circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, which follows the ruffled East River, Harlem River, and Hudson River, under all 20 bridges!
Capri to Naples is a famous 36 km swim between the Italian islands of Capri and Naples. Listed finishers all swam without a wetsuit and braved the blustery mood swings of the Tyrrhenian Sea
The Fastnet Swim is a picturesque marathon swim, leaving from Fastnet Rock to finish at Baltimore pier. It is a 13-mile slog in wild Irish waters, overlooked by the tallest and widest lighthouse in the British Isles. This swim is also part of the Irish Triple Crown, which requires completion of the North Channel swim and...
The Galway Bay Swim between Aughinish and Salthill's Blackrock Diving Tower. Either direction is accepted, with a stormy straight-line course that spans roughly 6 miles.
One of Australia's most world-famous endurance events in open water - the 12-mile Rottnest Channel Swim, unfolds between Perth and Rottnest Island (where merry quokkas finally beckon you out from sunlit, sharky depths)
Last up, we have the 11-mile Portland Bridge Swim, which we've been thrilled to sponsor in the past! The event began back in 2011 and the course flows under 12 bridges in the Willamette River, at the heart of Portland, Oregon - where big sturgeon roam the depths!
For UK Water Lovers
Events For Fun-loving Swimmers
This iconic selection of UK-based events is now run by Level Water under their new Swim Collective banner, alongside the Bantham Boomerang and Hurly Burly:
The Bantham Swoosh is a weird and wonderful 6km swim in a sand-bottomed Devon estuary. The water is clear and shallow and the course ends with the eponymous 'swoosh', when the ebbing tide funnels into a narrow arm of the river, sending you hurtling over the riverbed at up to four times your usual pace
Originally run by the Outdoor Swimming Society, the Dart 10K can be found clearly marked on a lot of swimmers' calendars across the UK. The course starts in Totnes, where hundreds of competitors pile in and ride the river currents to Dittisham - often described as one of the most beautiful stretches of river you'll find in the British Isles
Last up, we have the fantastic 24 Hour Relay (which SwimTrek attended in 2022 - watch the video here). This event takes place at leafy Shepperton Lake, just outside London. The first '22 outing saw 80 teams and 500 swimmers coming together to camp over the weekend and swim through the night to spend a collective full day in the freshwater murk. Overall, over £120,000 was raised!