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‘Rivers are Life’

UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh announces new campaign during historic 315-mile Hudson River swim
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Lewis Pugh

Main image: Lewis Pugh near the source of the Hudson River on 14 Aug, 2023

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

Now Lewis is pleased to announce that he is collaborating with global non-profit Count Us In to launch the ‘Rivers are Life’ campaign to raise awareness of everyday steps individuals can take to help protect local rivers and overall global health.

Lewis, 53, launched a historic 315 mile Hudson River swim on 13 August at the River’s source high in the Adirondack Mountains. The swim is scheduled to conclude in Manhattan on 13 September, just prior to a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.  

‘Lewis Pugh’s epic Hudson River swim is a powerful way to call on world leaders meeting at the UN this September to make our rivers drinkable, fishable and swimmable again.

‘We can all make a huge difference by taking action and backing Lewis’s letter for world governments at’

Count Us In co-founder

Another world first for Lewis

The 315 mile/507km swim, among the most challenging Lewis has ever attempted, would mark the first time anyone has swum the full length of the Hudson River unassisted.

An unassisted swim means the swimmer only wears a Speedo, cap and goggles (also known as ‘skins’), in contrast to an assisted swim where swimmers choose to use equipment to assist them, such as a wetsuit, snorkel, gloves, flippers, hand paddles, a craft when going down rapids etc.  

Lewis will feature the campaign’s ‘I Heart Rivers’ logo along his Hudson River journey.

The campaign also asks people to back Lewis’s call for world leaders to prioritise healthy rivers as part of the drive to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030. 

‘I am so pleased to be collaborating with Count Us In on the ‘Rivers are Life’ campaign throughout the Hudson River Swim.

‘Clean rivers are essential to the fight for global sustainability. Fortunately, they’re 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, thanks to a number of wonderful environmental organisations here in New York.

‘Much work is still required, but tangible improvements have been made, setting an example for restoring rivers around the world.’

UN Patron of the Oceans

A groundbreaking ocean advocate

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

He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world.

Lewis 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.

He is also the only person to have swum the 217 mile/350km 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. 

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