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Lewis Pugh to swim the Hudson River

UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh announces first unassisted Hudson River swim 
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Lewis Pugh

Lewis Pugh, the UNEP Patron of the Oceans, has pioneered swims in the most challenging environments on Earth, including the Antarctic, the North Pole, the Red Sea and the Himalayas.

He has now announced that he will attempt to become the first person to swim the full length of the Hudson River unassisted,to highlight the critical importance of river health to the health of the world’s oceans and the overall global environment.

The 315-mile (507-km) swim, one of the most challenging Lewis will ever have attempted, is scheduled to take place August 13-September 13, wrapping up shortly before nations begin ratifying the historic High Seas Treaty, which aims to protect biodiversity in international waters, on 20 September. 

‘If we want healthy oceans we also need healthy rivers — it’s that simple. Clean rivers are essential in the fight for global sustainability; indeed, our very existence depends on fresh water, clean air, and a habitable planet.

‘The good news is that rivers are accessible to most people, and we know what it takes to get them healthy. I specifically chose the Hudson for this swim because of the environmental progress that’s been made on the iconic waterway in recent years. Much work is still required, but tangible improvements have been made, setting an example for restoring rivers around the world.’

Endurance swimmer and UNEP Patron of the Oceans

Rapids, waterfalls and toxic sewage

As with all his swims, Lewis will make the swim unassisted – meaning he’ll be traversing the length of the river wearing only a Speedo, cap and goggles.

The expedition will launch at Lake Tear of the Clouds high in the Adirondack Mountains, the Hudson’s source, and conclude at Battery Park in lower Manhattan.

The complexity of the swim involves dramatic topological shifts, powerful river currents and potentially toxic sewage runoffs during heavy rains.

‘The Hudson is truly majestic, but, like most rivers, it begins with a trickle in fairly rough terrain, so this swim will actually have to begin on foot to negotiate rocks and very dense vegetation. That terrain quickly evolves into white water rapids and waterfalls that demand respect, so my expedition team and I are studying every twist and turn of the river keenly.

‘I will hike and run around any rapids which are unswimmable. The plan is to swim an average of 10 miles (16km) per day, with some days being far more challenging than others based on river terrain and conditions.’

Endurance swimmer and UNEP Patron of the Oceans

The legendary endurance swimmer

Lewis Pugh, from Plymouth, worked as a maritime lawyer in London before becoming a full-time ocean advocate.

Lewis was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world. He pioneers swims in the most vulnerable ecosystems on Earth to campaign for their protection.

In 2007 he became the first person to swim across the North Pole and in 2018 the first person to swim the entire length of the English Channel.

Lewis is also the only person to have swum the 217-mile (350-km) length of the River Thames (in 2006) and the only person to have swum down a river underneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet (in 2020). 

In 2013, Lewis was appointed UNEP Patron of the Oceans. In 2016, he played a pivotal role in creating the largest Marine Protected Area in the world in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. The Lewis Pugh Foundation has helped protect an area of ocean larger than Western Europe. 

‘Lewis Pugh stands atop the Pantheon of the world’s endurance swimmers, with every stroke he takes focusing our attention on the environment.

‘Mr Pugh’s range is unprecedented, from the tropical waters of the Maldives to the inhospitable North Pole, Lewis has pushed himself like no other, all to inspire government leaders and the citizens of the world to be proactive stewards of our marine environments.’

Former head coach of the USA open water swim team

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