ISHOF Honoree Chad Hundeby Dies Suddenly at the Age of 50

by Annika Johnson 4

June 29th, 2021 Club, National, News

Renowned open water swimmer Chad Hundeby died suddenly on Saturday at the age of 50.

His brother, Coleman, told the OC Register he died of an apparent heart attack.

Hundeby won gold in the 25k at the 1991 FINA World Championships in Perth, Australia. Three years later, he broke the world record (which belonged to his coach Penny Lee Dean at the time) for swimming across the English Channel. 

“You couldn’t ask for a nicer person to destroy your record,” she said after he broke the record without planning to, according to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

He accomplished the feat in seven hours and 17 minutes, breaking Dean’s record by 23 minutes.

 In 1993, he set the record for swimming across the Catalina Channel, from island to mainland, in eight hours and 14 minutes.

His swimming accomplishments go back to his high school days at Woodbridge High in Irvine, the same high school four-time U.S. Olympian Jason Lezak attended. 

There, in the late 1980s, Hundeby won six CIF Southern Section individual titles. He won three titles in the 200 free and three in the 500 free.

“He would just annihilate people,” former Woodbridge coach Pat Bangs told the OC Register. 

“He won everything.”

In 1989, the Woodbridge Warriors won the CIF 2AA title and Hundeby’s times were the fastest in any CIF division. 

Hundeby went on to compete for Southern Methodist University but became more known for his accomplishments in open water and marathon swimming.

He was named Open Water Swimmer of the Year by USA Swimming three times, in 1991, 1993 and 1994. 

Hundeby was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2012 and the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an honor swimmer. The end text of his ISHOF award reads:

 “Anyone who knows Hundeby knows he does not seek the spotlight. Modest and humble in nature, yet competitive and fierce when swimming. He is a great finisher and a great competitor.”

He learned to swim at Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin at the age of three. “The water is where he wanted to be,” Johnny Johnson of the Blue Buoy Swim School told the OC Register.

Hundeby is survived by his wife, Jean Marie, sons Anders, Hayden, and Marcus, brother, Coleman, and parents Ted and Jan. His son Anders currently swims for Tustin High School and broke the school’s 200 IM record this season.

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6 months ago

Not that it matters given the tragedy, but Lezak went to Irvine HS. Derya Büyükuncu, who went to six Olympic Games for Turkey, was a few years behind Chad at Woodbridge.

cynthia curran
Reply to  Brian
6 months ago

Yeah, those schools had a lot of high class swimmers in the 1990’s like Amanda Beard as well.

6 months ago

To keep the focus on the subject of the story, the Lezak clickable name is a distraction. Seeing his picture in the “In This Story” footer detracts from the well written piece about Mr. Hundeby.

6 months ago

Too young. I didn’t know him personally, but remember his accomplishments.