While most of us couldn’t dream of doing them all in even a lifetime, Diego Lopez is attempting a major swim in each of the seven continents in 2018.
Lopez, 36, was once a moderately successful pool swimmer growing up in the Canary Islands. He competed for London University while completing his masters degree from 2005-2006, but took the plunge into open water swimming when he moved to Hong Kong for work.
There, he joined the Open Water Swimmers of Hong Kong, a group which meets for weekly swims and offers instruction in open water strategy.
Just as in pool swimming, Lopez confirmed that preparation is key in open water swimming: “It was really when I moved to Hong Kong that I really started gaining traction in the sport, probably because I started training properly.”
With the backing of that proper training, in October of 2012, Lopez completed the 15k Clean Half Extreme Marathon swim in 4 hours and 12 mins, taking third place overall.
Fast forward five years to 2017, in which Lopez completed 15 open water swims in seven different countries. The most high-profile of those swims was the 20 Bridges Manhattan Island Swim, which entails a 45.8km circumnavigational route around Manhattan Island. Lopez completed the race in 6 hours and 37 mins — the fastest time ever for a Spanish swimmer, and the 11th fastest time in history.
Now living in New York working as a financial executive, Lopez finds that his biggest obstacle is water temperature during this particularly cold winter. However, you’ll still find him at the beach, preparing for what’s to come.
Lopez will begin his self-dubbed “Continents Seven” tour on March 7th in Perth, Australia, where he’ll attempt the 25km “Port to Pub” swim. On April 21st, he’ll attempt the 7.5km “Freedom Swim” from Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa. On May 6th, he’ll head to Bolivia for another 7.5km attempt in Lake Titicaca, then June 16th he’ll attempt 58km (about 36 miles) beginning in North Dakotax.
On July 22nd he’ll be in Istanbul, Turkey, attempting the 6.5km Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim. October 6th he’ll redo the 15k Clean Half Extreme Marathon in Hong Kong, and then he’ll finish out the tour on November 10th in Antarctica with the 1km IISA Ice KM Swim event.
Each swim is individually one of the most revered on its respective continent, either for water conditions (32 degrees in Antarctica!), altitude, or length. Between most of the seven main swims, Lopez will attempt additional smaller ones, including the 34km Catalina Channel.
“I think it’s the unknown [that keeps me going] — I sometimes compare it to flying. Before flying, you’re always sort of nervous or uncertain, and when there’s turbulences you start getting nervous, and I compare it to that,” Lopez told SwimSwam. “Getting out of my comfort zone gets me addicted to it. It’s challenging, and I normally follow my challenges in my professional career as well. It’s the challenge that gets you addicted and hooked to it.”
Additionally, Lopez swims “for the ocean.”
Many open water swimmers use their races to raise money for health-related organizations, but Lopez bears the logo of the Ocean Recovery Alliance as he swims.
“I identify with their pursuit, which is fighting plastic waste in the ocean. Increasing awareness of reducing the human waste in the ocean,” Lopez explained. “I have been fortunate not to have any illness in my immediate family or close circle of friends, and there is nothing more disgusting when you swim than coming across a beer can or anything a human has produced — it doesn’t feel right.”