Pugh to swim 200?km in drive for protection of oceans

2014-08-06 00:00

STELLENBOSCH — It will take more than flu to stop this swimmer. Speaking with a hoarse voice from London, extreme swimmer and environmental activist Lewis Gordon Pugh (44) told sister paper Die Burger even if he breaks a leg he will just strap it tight and continue.

The South African Brit, who lives in Noordhoek, yesterday announced his latest challenge and campaign — Seven Swims in the Seven Seas for One Reason.

Over the next three weeks, Pugh will swim the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian and North seas, which are some of the most polluted and over-fished seas in the world.

He has meanwhile contracted laryngitis, but he will still start tomorrow in Monte Carlo, where Prince Albert II of Monaco will welcome him and sail alongside as Pugh completes his first swim in the Mediterranean.

Pugh will be the first person to swim long distance in each of the seven seas — aiming to cover 200 km by month end. The longest distance he will swim in one go is 100 km.

“I have trained for six months in Cape Town. Half of my preparations were with Stephan du Toit, the strength and conditioning coach for the Stormers. We followed a tough schedule … It was fast and aggressive training.

“The rest of the time I worked with my swimming coach, Brian Button. I swam about four times a week.”

As United Nations Patron of the Oceans, Pugh became the first person in the world to swim long distance at the North Pole in July 2007. He has also swum in the newly formed glacial lake under the peak of Mount Everest to focus attention on climate change and in 1987 swam as a 17-year-old from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand.

In the water Pugh wears only a Speedo, which earned him the nickname “human polar bear”.

Pugh, a maritime lawyer, said the Seven Seas swim is his most ambitious expedition yet. He said the swimming part was easy, getting the countries to look after their oceans is the hard part.

“Approximately 13% of the world’s land lies in protected areas, but less than three percent of the oceans are protected, and much of that receives little protection in practice. If we can do it on land, why can’t we do it at sea,” he asked.

Pugh said his main message to nations would be to urgently proclaim Marine Protected Areas to safeguard all seas in the same way as terrestrial national parks gave us the Serengeti, the Kruger and Yellowstone parks.

“We need the political will to protect our oceans.”

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