Honor Open Water Swimmer
THE RECORD: First crossing of the Catalina Island Channel (1971) 12:36 hrs.;
Women’s and men’s record crossing of the English Channel (1972) 9:57 hrs.;
Women’s and men’s record crossing of the English Channel (1973) 9:36 hrs.,
Catalina Island Channel crossing record (1974) 8:48 hrs.; Cook Straits between
North and South Islands of New Zealand (1975) 12 hrs., 2 min.;
Straits of Magellan (Chile), Oresund and Skagerrak (Scandinavia) (1976) 1
hr., 2 min.; Aleutian Islands (three channels) 1977; Cape of Good Hope (S.
Africa) 1979; Around Joga Shima (Japan) 1980; Across three lakes in New
Zealand’s Southern Alps (1983); Twelve difficult “Swims Across America”
(1984); “Around the World in 80 Days”, 12 extremely challenging swims
totaling 80+ miles (1985); Across the Bering Strait, U.S. to Soviet Union (1987)
2 hr., 6 min.; Across Lake Baikal, Soviet Union (1988); Across the Beagle
Channel between Chile and Argentina (1990); Across the Spree River between the
newly united German Republics (1990); Lake Titicaca Swim (1992).
Cox became the best cold water, long distance swimmer the world has ever seen.
Her 5 foot 6 inch, 180-pound frame of a body was at one with the water.
With a body density precisely that of sea water, her 36% body fat (normal
is 18% to 25%) gave her neutral buoyancy. Her
energy could be used all for propulsion and not to keep afloat.
Propelling though the most treacherous waters of the globe is what Lynne
Cox did best.
her parents moved the family from New Hampshire to Los Alamitos, California in
1969 so that Lynne and her older brother and two sisters could receive better
swim coaching, Hall of Fame coach Don Gambril, at the Phillips 66 Swim Club,
took her under his guidance. What
he saw was a large-boned girl with boundless energy and great upper body
strength who could slice through the water like a porpoise.
When she was 14 and already tired of “going back and forth in the pool
and going nowhere”, Gambril urged her to enter a series of rough water swims
near Long Beach. As a result in
1971, at age 14, she swam the 31-mile Catalina Channel in Southern California
with four other friends. She loved
it. The chill, the chop, the solitude, and the liberation were
all exhilarating to Lynne. “Everything
opened up. It was like going from a
cage to freedom.”
the next two decades, Lynne competed against the elements in swims which took
her to all the major bodies of water in the world, many of which had not been
crossed before and most of which had not been done by a woman.
Her study of history at the University of California Santa Barbara may
have been a catalyst in choosing which swims to pursue.
It became her desire to use her swims to help bring people together, to
work toward a more peaceful world. This
realization was sparked during her 1975 swim as the first woman to swim the
10-mile Cook Straits in New Zealand in 12 hours 2-1/2 minutes. During this difficult swim, the outcry of support from the
New Zealand people was all she needed to finish this 50 degree Fahrenheit swim,
even when the tides and current had taken her farther away from the starting
point after the first five hours of the crossing.
most famous swim was in 1987, eleven years after her father had planted the seed
in her head. Lynne completed 2.7 miles in the Bering Straits, 350 miles north of
Anchorage, Alaska where the water temperature ranges from 38-42 degrees
Fahrenheit. Perhaps the most incredible of cold water swims, her 2 hours, 16
minutes from Little Diomede (USA) to Big Diomede (USSR) astonished the
physiologists who were monitoring her swim. It marked one of the coldest swims
ever completed. One can’t get much colder.
After this temperature, the water turns to ice.
It was a swim that brought the United States and Soviet Union together in
an exchange of glasnost and perestroika. In Washington, Presidents Reagan and
Gorbachov toasted Lynne’s swim saying that she “proved by her courage how
closely to each other our peoples live”.
Before this time, at the start of the Cold War, the families of the
Diomede Islands had been split and had not been permitted to see one another
is the purist of marathon swimmers. She
does not wear a wet suit in frigid water and does not use a cage in shark
infested waters. Her swims in Iceland’s 40 degree F Lake Myzvtan and
Alaska’s 38 degree F Glacier Bay, where the lead boat had to break a path in
the one quarter inch ice, were done wearing only a swim suit, cap and goggles.
She wanted to do more than just achieve times and set records.
And she did. But in the
process, she became the fastest person to swim the English Channel (1972 and
again in 1973), the first person to swim the Straits of Magellan (Chile) 4-1/2
miles, 42 degree F (1976), Norway to Sweden, 15 miles 44 degree F (1976), three
bodies of water in the Aleutian Islands (USA) 8 miles total, 44 degree F (1977)
and around the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) 10 miles, 70 degree F which
attracted sharks, jellyfish and sea snakes (1978).
Many other swims included Lake Biakal in the Soviet Union (1988), the
Beagle Channel of Argentina and Chile (1990) and around the Japanese Island of
Joga Shima. In 1994 at the age of 37 years, she swam the Gulf of Aqaba in the
Red Sea joining the 15 miles of 80-degree water between Egypt, Israel and
Jordan. She has swum Lake Titicaca
in the Andes Mountains, the world’s highest navigable lake.
works as an author, motivational lecturer, and teaches swimming technique both
in the pool and open water.
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