2013-07-03 09:30

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He’s swum in the icy waters of the North Pole and across a glacial lake on Mount Everest to draw attention to the devastating effects of climate change.

Lewis Pugh is one of the world’s leading inspirational speakers. His goal is to convince governments and corporates to protect the fragile ecosystems of the oceans for generations to come.

He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean on the planet. In his second book, 21 Yaks and a Speedo (R200, Jonathan Ball), he lists the 21 strategies he used to achieve what no one thought likely. The principles are simple but effective. Stick by them, he says, and you will achieve your own impossible.

Your North Pole swim in 2007 was an appeal to the world to do something about climate change. Has anyone listened?

I’ve been around the world and spoken to a lot of politicians and business people, campaigning for marine areas to be protected. And yes, there is movement. The British government has announced it is creating 31 marine protected areas around Britain, which I’m delighted about.

Britain has also committed to cutting down carbon emissions. I’m hoping others will follow. Some say your ocean swims simply attract attention to the individual, not the cause.

I have my critics, but I believe leadership is about taking people from where they are to another, better place. Movement creates resistance and

I face resistance daily, but I try not to take it personally. I focus on the goal.

Have you always been an ambitious, determined person?

I’ve always been determined and passionate, but I wouldn’t say ambitious. My campaign is ambitious, though – to create our biggest nature reserves in the oceans, which are being affected by gross overfishing and pollution.

You talk about ‘training your mind’. What does that entail?

Visualisation, and using all your senses to close the gap between where you are now and where you need to be. This doesn’t mean you have no fear. Fear is healthy – it’s what keeps you alert to danger. Panic, on the other hand, is deadly.

You’re a maritime lawyer who qualified in Cape Town, then in England. Is law an abiding passion?

I practise law less and less, and swim more and more. That said, because a major part of my work is speaking to governments and campaigning for legislation, I need a good understanding of maritime laws around the world.

When do you fit in family time?

My wife, Antoinette, and two stepchildren live in Noordhoek, Cape Town, so I am often in South Africa. And when I’m here, I’m at home most of the time, or in the sea.

Cape Town is an ideal training ground, because you have the cold Atlantic as well as the warm, flat Indian Ocean off Kalk Bay. And, of course, my close friend and mentor, sports scientist Tim Noakes, lives in Cape Town.

What I’m reading at the moment

Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica.

» Get your copy of iMag in City Press on Sundays.

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