The New York City Department of Environmental Protection says that the city’s harbor is “cleaner now than at any time in the last 100 years.” Still, there are not many people willing to jump in and go for a swim. But that’s what 31-year-old Leslie Hamilton did last month. On the night of July 9, Hamilton dove into the water and completed a 37-mile swim around Staten Island.
“People were like, ‘Oh she must have a third arm or three eyes.’ I was actually completely fine. I didn’t feel sick after the swim,” Hamilton told WNBC-TV. “I made sure my tetanus shot was current.”
It’s not the first time that Hamilton’s swum in these waters. In 2022, she set a new record at the Rose Pitonof Swim, completing the 17 mile race from Manhattan to Coney Island in 4:12:06.
It took Hamilton 14.5 hours to complete her Staten Island swim. In 1961, a 21-year-old lifeguard was the first to swim around Staten Island, but Hamilton is the first officially observed swim, and she’s the first woman to achieve the feat.
Completing a swim around Staten Island means swimming in four different bodies of water, which means managing different currents, not to mention boat traffic. Because of that, Hamilton told WNBC-TV that she wasn’t sure that she and her team “weren’t really sure it [the swim] was feasible.”
But it wasn’t either of those things that ending up being the most challenging factor. After her swim, Hamilton posted on Instagram detailing that she got “hundreds of sea lice bites” which resulted in her having to do a mid-race bathing suit change.
Hamilton trained for her swim with New York Open Water, an organization that provides support for open water swimming. She told WNBC-TV that next, she’s got her eye on the English Channel.
In addition to being an iconic open water swim, the English Channel is one of the swims that forms the Triple Crown of open water swimming. The other two are the 32.5km Catalina Channel and the 48.5km circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, which would involve another dip in the New York City harbor.