Lewis Gordon Pugh, ‘The Human Polar Bear’
These awards honour individuals, events and contributions to the world of open water swimming. Pugh has been dubbed ‘The Human Polar Bear’ for his super-human swimming exploits in the coldest waters of our planet.
A growing number of swimmers have completed the ‘ice mile’ which is a one-mile swim in waters of 5 degrees or less. This is how the Outdoor Swimming Society describes the water at this temperature:
Jumping in is likely to impair breathing in the uninitiated, as breath comes in big jolting grasps and it feels like someone has clamped on an ice neck brace. Water has bite, skin smarts and burns. This is winter swimming. Limbs soon become weak – 25 metres can be an achievement – and only takes a minute or two at the lower end of temperatures before skin becomes a lurid purple-orange-red when you exit.
So that’s at around 5 degrees, to put it in context Pugh has completed many sub-zero swims, coming to fame in 2007 for his 1 mile swim across the Geographic North Pole in water temperatures of minus 1.7 degrees.
Although open water swimming was a sporting passion for Pugh from the age of 17 years old, it is so much more than that these days. In 2003 having completed an impressive list of pioneering open water swims, he focussed his attention on the coldest and most hostile waters of the world. He left his career as a Maritime Lawyer and fully embraced what he now calls his ‘Mission’, to inspire people around the world to protect and preserve our oceans and all that live in them, for a peaceful and sustainable future.
Oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface and we rely on them entirely for our survival. I have seen drastic changes in my lifetime because of our actions.
Already United Nations Patron of the Oceans, in 2015 National Geographic bestowed the title ‘Adventurer of the Year’, and it has been some year. Campaigning for Marine Protected Area status for the Ross Sea in Antarctica, which is at present almost completely free from pollution, Pugh undertook five 1 km sub-zero swims in Antarctica over the course of three weeks, facing the most extreme swimming conditions known to man.
Marine Protected Area status for the Ross Sea would mean the maritime equivalent of our National Park status – something that is very close to our heart here at English Lakes. The area that we are talking about is the combined size of UK, Germany and France.
One of this remarkable adventurer’s favourite quotes, which comes as a challenge to us all, is Nelson Mandela’s infamous words,
Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation.
Without doubt, The World Open Water Swimming Awards at Low Wood Bay on 5th February will be an inspirational evening.
Chilly Lake Windermere in Winter, the venue for the Big Chillswim
Recognising the privilege of living and working in some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, English Lakes endeavours to ensure that we are helping to look after the countryside for generations to come. To date, our Visitor Giving Scheme has contributed over £160,000 to various projects on land and in local waters.