Swimming for a Cause - Speedo Diplomacy

Contributed by Crystie McGrail, NE-LMSC Coaches Chair

I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 USMS National Coaches Clinic in San Francisco in November. One of the first presenters was Open Water Swimming legend Steve Munatones. Steve presented about the very interesting past, present, and future of open water swimming and one specific topic drew me in: “Speedo Diplomacy.”

What is Speedo Diplomacy?

“Speedo diplomacy is a politically-sensitive swim or actions based on an unprecedented open water swim that results in positive action by governments or leaders around the world, especially those with fundamentally different perspectives and viewpoints.” (http://openwaterpedia.com)

A Historical Example

Lynne Cox swims across the Bering Strait in 1987 (from her website)

One Speedo Diplomacy swim you might be familiar with is when Lynne Cox tackled a pioneering cold water swim in 1987 across the Bering Strait. Her goal was to open US-Soviet border for the first time in 48 years by swimming from Alaska to the Soviet Union. Lynne succeeded by completing the 2.7 mile swim in just over 2 hours, though 37 degree water. Read more from BBC 

Current Feats

A map of Pugh's five swims for Antarctica (from his website)

A map of Pugh's five swims for Antarctica (from his website)

More recently, in October 2016, Lewis Pugh successfully pushed through the creation of the largest Marine Protection Area in history, located in the Ross Sea of Antarctica. He accomplished this through 5 unprecedented solo swims and tireless lobbying. In addition to setting a new precedent for conservation, this is remarkable because, in his own words, “Russia, the US, the EU and the 22 other CCAMLR nations shook hands in a time of strained political relations”.

The Longest Swim

Ben Lecomte plans to swim across the Pacific Ocean next year (photo from NPR)

Another epic event is coming in spring 2017 when Ben Lecomte tackles swimming from Tokyo to San Francisco, a whopping 5,500 miles! This expedition is expected to take 6 months while swimming 8 hours each day and includes traversing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along the way, Ben and the crew will be collecting oceanic and medical research data in 8 different fields through the support of 12 scientific institutions including Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and NASA. “From plastic pollution to space exploration, this adventure will be a unique opportunity to collect data and learn more about the oceans and human body in extreme conditions.”  

There are many more examples - including local examples - of swimming to encourage positive actions for the environment and human health.  Maybe you even have an idea of your own swimming feat to promote the conservation of this one wild and wonderful world in which we live!