Longest distance swam: What was the longest swim ever?

Miami, Florida - There's something extraordinary about any world record, but when it involves swimming hundreds of miles, that astonishment is even more pronounced. So, what is the longest distance ever swam?

Swimming can be about more than just splashing around; it can be a world record maker!
Swimming can be about more than just splashing around; it can be a world record maker!  © Collage: Unsplash/Todd Quackenbush & IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

To most people, swimming is an activity they do for enjoyment and leisure. At most, it might be something one uses to stay in shape, to get some cardio in, or as a necessity when teaching the kids how to stay afloat.

Yet, swimming can also be the realm of the madman, and for this formidable floater, the water was his key to achieving something worthy of note.

So who was this man, one of the most remarkable world record holders, and how did he manage to swim further than anyone else in the world? Who holds the record for the longest distance ever swam, and how did he do it?

What is the longest distance ever swam?

The longest distance ever swam was achieved by a Spanish man named Pablo Fernandez, who managed to swim 250 kilometers (approx 155.34 miles) in July 2021. Attempted over the course of two days (July 19 and 20), Fernandez managed to complete the record in Florida, beating a previous record that had stood for more than 15 years at the time.

His record was guaranteed and rewarded by Guinness World Records on July 20, 2021, recognizing a distance of exactly 250 kilometers and also granting him the longest open water swim record and the farthest distance swam in 24 hours record. In other words, his remarkable effort scored him not one but multiple world records all at once.

A native of Madrid in Spain, Fernandez has participated in many long-distance swims over the course of his life, competing in the United States as well as Senegal, Gambia, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and more. The attempt he made, which eventually got him the record, was not even his first, having tried to make the swim earlier that same month, only to be foiled by bad weather.

Over the course of July 19 and 20, Fernandez broke the record with one long swim. The first record was set at 238 kilometers (approx. 147.89 miles) swam from 10 AM on July 19 until 10 AM on July 20, all in one go. Yet, despite having beaten the previous record, he continued on for another 12 kilometers (approx. 7.46 miles), finally finishing at 12:36 PM.

In total, Fernandez had managed to swim for 26 hours and 36 minutes before he came to a stop. He had swam 155.34 miles (though the calculations were all made in metric) without any aids like fins or paddles, all in one go.

It's unlikely that anyone will take Pablo Fernandez's world record from him anytime soon.
It's unlikely that anyone will take Pablo Fernandez's world record from him anytime soon.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

The longest swim ever is also the longest open water swim

Along with his Guinness World Record for longest distance swam, Fernandez also managed to pick up the record for open water and ocean swim as well. It was a remarkable feat, especially seeing as the athlete managed to keep going for well over 24 hours in waters that were quite dangerous.

According to Open Water Swimming, considering the pull of the currents and the distance he managed to travel over the course of his swim, Fernandez would have been swimming about 100 meters (328.08 feet) every 40 seconds for more than 24 hours. Such a speed is, just in itself, remarkable.

Commenting on the achievement, American water polo player and open water swimmer Steven Muñatones suggested that we should "compare Pablo's average speed – sustained for 24 hours – to the speed of Olympic male sprinters who are maxing out at 46-47 seconds in a 100-meter sprint with a dive and turn while wearing techsuits."

"It was brilliant for Pablo and his team to find such a fast-moving body of water under the optimal conditions and then ride the current for over a day. Logistically, operationally, meteorologically, navigationally, it was a great swim."

Longest distance swam without stopping

Non-stop long distance swimming can be dangerous.
Non-stop long distance swimming can be dangerous.  © Unsplash/Karl Fredrickson

Seeing as Fernandez managed to achieve the entirety of his swim without stopping, it only makes sense that he also now holds the record for the longest distance ever swam without stopping. He managed to do it by swimming with the current in the Gulf of Mexico and with the aid of kayaking guides and boat captains who stayed with him and made sure that everything was okay.

When Fernandez made his successful world record attempt, he had many things on his side. Winds were blowing only very lightly, waves were very small (around 1-3 feet), and the water sat at about 84-86°F, making it relatively safe to swim in. Without these factors and the helpful current he was swimming in, he would not have been able to achieve such a feat.

Ultimately, though, Pablo Fernandez has pulled off something truly extraordinary, having swam more than 100 miles in one giant go over the course of a single day. What's certain is that he's no ordinary swimmer!

Don't try to swim this far without training!

While it might seem tempting to try and attempt such a swim, it takes more than just a bit of resilience and some hardcore training to complete. Swimming such a long distance is one of the most taxing and difficult things you can ask of your body and something that poses a serious risk for the person involved. It's a crazy achievement, sure, but not something to sniff at.

Instead, take a step back and appreciate what was done here, hundreds of miles swum by a single person. What Pablo Fernandez managed to do will be extremely hard to beat, that's for sure.

Cover photo: Collage: Unsplash/Todd Quackenbush & IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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