Thursday, September 26, 2019

Jonathan Ratcliffe Crossed The Tsugaru Channel First In 2019

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Jonathan Ratcliffe from the United Kingdom flew halfway around the world and became the first successful Tsugaru Channel swimmer when he crossed in 11 hours on July 19th.

Copyright @ 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Claire Faranda Crosses The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Claire Faranda from France flew halfway around the world to start at 2:47 am on July 20th from Kodomari, Aomori Prefecture on Honshu.

After catching some good luck with the weather and conditions, she reached the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido after 9 hours 51 minutes 24 seconds crossing in the 22°C – 23°C water.

Copyright @ 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Luca Pozzi Swims Through The Night Across The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

On August 30th, Luca Pozzi of Italy started in pitch blackness on the island of Honshu in northern Japan and completed a nightime crossing of the 19.5 km Tsugaru Channel along the Kodomari Route.

He finished at 7:44 am for a quick 8 hour 20 minute 58 second crossing.

His marine chart provided by his escort pilot and navigator on the left shows his route from the south on the island of Honshu, across the Tsugaru Channel as he rode the Tsugaru Current, towards the northern island of Hokkaido.

His route was a classic example of a successful S-curve crossing.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Herman van der Westhuizen Succeeds Tsugaru Channel 2.0

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

On August 30th, Herman van der Westhuizen of South Africa made a second attempt of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan along the Kodomari Route.

In September 2018, he attempted a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel along the same course, but he abandoned the swim after 12 hours.

This year on August 30th, he achieved his goal and completed the crossing in 10 hours 22 minutes in 23°C water - and now he has completed crossings of the English Channel, North Channel, Catalina Channel and the Tsugaru Channel in his Oceans Seven journey.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Emre Erdogan Succeeds Across The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Emre Erdogan of Turkey completed a fast crossing of the Tsugaru Channel. He swam from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan in 7 hours 36 minutes today.

It was his fourth Oceans Seven channel in his emerging marathon swimming career. Today, even with a shoulder injury, he said, "If there's one thing the sea taught me, it is never to give up."

He swims as he believes. Even with successes across the Strait of Gibraltar, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the Tsugaru Channel, his previous two attempts at the Molokai Channel in Hawaii did not end in success.

"In Hawaii, I had my dream dashed because of a shark."

But Tsugaru did not good at the beginning. "When we went to the meeting [with the pilot and crew] before the crossing, there was rain and storming. The weather and the currents were looking very tough, and it was a little scary. Despite all my meditation, I could not get negative thoughts out of my mind."

But his escort crew took him to the start on Honshu. "The crew asked me why I swim. I said, 'I brought the flag of my country. This swim is for the sea and nature. Thanks to this swim, I can send my message to a wide audience. I said my last prayer and jumped into the sea. Now the struggle for me had begun.

I was praying non stop during swimming. I was crying, "Oh God, give me strength to my arm, get me out of this water safely. At the end of the first 40 minutes, they said that I would break a record if I could continue swimming like this. My dad was trying to motivate me and watch for dangers.

I had finished 10 kilometers after 2 hours. The captain and the observer were very surprised. They had never seen such speed. But the Tsugaru Channel had other plans. I heard my father's voice. It was full of pain. As the waves hit my arms, my energy was sapped.

After 5 hours, we had swum 25 km. I would break the record. During my feeding, my crew said, "You will be on land within 1 hour.' I was so happy. But then everything changed. The war has begun.

I normally swim a kilometer in 13 minutes, but I was only swimming 1 kilometer in a half an hour. Finally, they said that I had 1 kilometer to go, giving me a little relief. But a half an hour later, I realized I had to relax. When I asked how far I had more [to shore], my Dad said, 'A storm is coming, if you don't stop, we'll stay here, hold on.' He was looking at me with worried eyes and praying.

My chest was hurting. I didn't know if it was muscle pain or heart pain. Finally, I touched rock [to finish]."

Copyright @ 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Matthias Kaßner Cruises Across The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Matthias Kaßner completed a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan in 9 hours 45 minutes yesterday.

It was his 5th Oceans Seven channel in a prolific marathon and ice swimming career.

He has the Cook Strait in New Zealand and the Molokai Channel in Hawaii left on his agenda after completing the English Channel, North Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Catalina Channel and Tsugaru Channel as well as a number of other marathon swims from Europe (including the Beltquerung and Bodenseequerung) to America (Manhattan Island Marathon Swim).

One of his supporters, Oliver Halder, is celebrating his successful crossing with some unique T-shirts with a Japanese theme.  The shirts are sold on the Extremschwimmer online shop at

Copyright @ 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, August 19, 2019

Dina Levačic Emerges With A Fast Crossing Of The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Honshu - Hokkaido, Japan.

Dina Levačic, a young Croatian student from Split, completed a fast 19.5 km crossing of the Tsugaru Channel today.

With a 7 hour 13 minute swim from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan, she became the third fastest female swimmer across the Tsugaru Channel in history.

Ocean Navi reported, "She did a very fast time despite facing a very rough sea with strong winds and high waves after 5 km from the start, right to the very end.

But she swam through the difficult conditions with a strong and consistent pace - crossing the fast Tsugaru Current - the entire way

In addition to her many professional marathon swims and solo marathon swims around the world, this was Levačic's third Oceans Seven channel after her crossings of the English Channel and Catalina Channel.

Copyright @ 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Marcia Cleveland, Quick Quinquagenarian

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Honshu - Hokkaido, Japan.

Marcia Cleveland wrote Dover Solo, a widely-read, popular book about her 9 hour 44 minute English Channel crossing in 1994 at the age of 30. Dial forward 25 years and the 54-year-old Cleveland is still swimming channels around the world...and greatly enjoying herself doing it.

Today, she completed a 10 hour 11 minute tough crossing of the 19.5 km Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan.

She described the crossing that started at 4:53 am and finished at 6:33 pm, "The last seven hours, I was in a washing machine with 4-5 foot waves sometimes crashing over me. It was a tough swim and I made it. I earned this one today, although I couldn’t have done it without Ted Baumgartner [shown above] in oh so many ways."

Her Japanese hosts from Ocean Navi were happy for her success. "Marcia visited Ocean Navi in Shinagawa [Tokyo]; many know her as a dynamic swimmer. We told her during the swim another swimmer [from Croatia] completed a magnificent swim. Marcia said she was very happy for Dina and [as a result after receiving the news], she became even more powerful. She is not only a great swimmer, but also is a lovely person."

Copyright @ 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Team Denise Tackles Tsugaru

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Team Denise from Ireland completed a 19.5 km crossing from Honshu to Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan.

The Irish team of Peter, Denise, Saskia, Sandra, James and Enda is one of the few non-Japanese relay teams to have made the Oceans Seven crossing, finishing in 16 hours 37 minutes 45 seconds on August 6th in the 22℃ water.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, August 5, 2019

Nathalie Pohl Survives, Swims And Smiles Across Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Masahide Sano of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Nathalie Pohl made it safely to the start of her Tsugaru Channel crossing this morning at 2:16 am on the Kodomari peninsula in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan.

10 hours 9 minutes 40 seconds later, she made it safely and successfully across the channel to the shores of Hokkaido.

Her smile and relief were palpable.

Guided by Adam Walker and coach Joshua Neloh, Pohl had one of the most unusual and unfortunate experiences among channel swimmers in recent times.

Last August en route to her start on the Kodomari peninsula, her escort boat captain - who had escorted several dozens of swimmers and relays across the Tsugaru Channel and fishes in its waters as his primary job - crashed his boat into unseen rocks near the shore.

Walker wrote, "I can’t believe I’m writing this...the swim didn’t go ahead for Nathalie as the boat crashed into rocks on route to the start. Everyone is ok, if not slightly bruised and in shock. Nathalie banged her side and has rib pain so we need to check her out. The pilot was unconscious for a few minutes, but fortunately I was able to wake him up. He has gone off in an ambulance, he hurt his collarbone and has gone to hospital. The boat had to be towed.

Of course, the swim is cancelled and of course very disappointed for Nathalie

Walker later updated his report from the accident, "Nathalie ribs were x-rayed in Japan and shows a bad bruised, but no break. The pilot has a broken collarbone and will undergo surgery in a few days."

Steven Munatones recalled speaking with Pohl's father, "Nathalie, Coach Neloh and her father were really - and rightly - very shook up and upset. It was quite an unexpected - and unheard of - accident. But they started planning for her return and a successful crossing right away."

A year later, Pohl has every right to be proud of her return and her 10 hour 9 minute crossing of the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association and Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

Kieron Palframan Successfully Crosses Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Masahide Sano of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

South African extreme swimmer Kieron Palframan completed a very fast 8 hour 41 minute 5 second crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan. He started in Kodomari on Honshu and finished on the shores of Hokkaido.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

John Batchelder‎'s Crossing For Rachel's Challenge

Courtesy of WOWSA, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

The Columbine High School massacre was an American school shooting in 1999 where 10 students and a teacher were killed and 21 students were injured by fellow gun-toting students.

‎John Batchelder‎, one of the most prolific marathon swimmers in the world today, is a alumnus of Columbine High School (Class of 1999).

He writes about the cross section of his memories of the massacre in Colorado and his own channel swimming aspirations across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan. "I am dedicating my 2020 Tsugaru Channel Swim in remembrance of all those affected by senseless violence, particularly those from my Columbine High School family. It’s been 20 years, but I still have clear memories of that fateful day on April 20th 1999 and the days that followed, and I know I’m not alone.

To this end, I'm raising money for Rachel's Challenge. Rachel Scott was one of my classmates whose life was tragically cut short, but I’m happy to see her memory has become the foundation for an organization to help make the world a better place.

Rachel’s Challenge exists to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. Please help me support a great cause. Every little bit helps

Batchelder‎, whose butterfly exploits raised his marathon swimming profile worldwide, explained about his charitable efforts and his fundraiser for Rachel's Challenge. "Why Tsugaru?

Well, I thought about tying it to one of my swims already planned this year, but none felt appropriate. Then I went back to where I was 20 years ago. Back in high school I got caught up in the anime craze, falling in love with some of the iconic anime movies and series of the time, especially Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and through that I fell in love with all of Japanese culture as a whole.

Japan was the first foreign country I ever visited, not counting a couple brief stops in Canada, and I absolutely loved my time there. It’s because of this I decided that the swim needed to be Tsugaru, as that is my best way of reconnecting with my past. Unfortunately that means waiting over a year for the swim, as I’m already committed to a full schedule this year, but that’s the way it goes

To donate and for more information, visit here.

Copyright © 2008-2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thomas Pembroke Achieves The Oceans Seven

Courtesy of WOWSA, Cook Strait, New Zealand.

It is done.

Over the last five years, Thomas Pembroke has been determined to swim across channels around the world while helping to raise money for a variety of worthwhile causes.

Pembroke became the second Australian, the 13th person in history, and the youngest person to achieve the Oceans Seven with last Friday's crossing of the Cook Strait.

Over the course of his career, the personable 29-year-old Sydney resident and teacher has accomplished the following:

* July 2013: he completed a 33.8 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France to 14 hours 59 minutes
* September 2015: he completed a 35 km crossing of the North Channel from Northern Ireland to Scotland in 12 hours 10 minutes as a fundraiser to benefit disabled children in Papua New Guinea
* June 2016: he completed a 45 km crossing of the Molokai Channel from Molokai to Oahu in Hawaii in 15 hours 27 minutes which he swam to benefit Kiss Goodbye to MS
* June 2016: he completed a 32.3 km crossing of the Catalina Channel from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland in 12 hours 2 minutes with dolphins swimming around him
* June 2017: he completed a 33.8 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France in 15 hours 19 minutes
* October 2017: he attempted a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan, starting on Honshu, but he was pulled after 11 hours 12 minutes before reaching his goal in Hokkaido
* May 2018: he completed a 14.4 km tandem crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa Island in Spain to Perejil Island in Morocco in 4 hours 18 minutes together with Marty Filipowski, Mark Mallison, and Victor Pineiro
* August 2018: he completed a 19.5 km crossing of the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan in 15 hours 1 minute
* December 2018: he completed a 23 km crossing of the Cook Strait from North Island to South Island in New Zealand in 6 hours 57 minutes to complete the Oceans Seven

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thomas Pembroke Faced Constant Winds And Waves

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya, Ocean Navi, Japan.

Thomas Pembroke of Australia gave it a valiant attempt across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan, but the constant winds and unrelenting waves were just too much today. He got out of the turbulent channel at 5:12 pm, 11 hours 12 minutes from the start on Honshu and 8 km from his intended goal in Hokkaido.

Videos and photos of his swim are posted at Channel Swim Japan.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, December 24, 2018

Toshio Tominaga Shows The Benefits Of Swimming

Graph courtesy of CNN.

"The unprecedented demographic trends currently underway in Japan are one clear indicator how important swimming can be for the overall health and wellness of every society and country," says Steven Munatones.

"The benefits of swimming are so evident in one's youth and middle-age, but the lifelong benefits of swimming in one's older years is so much more significant. Once everyone learns how to swim and is pool-safe and open water-safe, swimming is a great way to relax, stay fit, and be well for a lifetime. Swimming is a low-impact activity that has many physical and mental health benefits."

Where the benefits of swimming and the aging of society meet in an unprecedented manner is Japan.

Japan's population peaked in 2008 at 128,083,960 people. But as the number of births fell below the number of deaths, Japan is experiencing its biggest natural population decline since 1899 when records began. Japan's population is currently at 124 million this year - but is expected to decrease to 88 million by 2065 and 42 million by 2110 as its population continues to decline by 1 million people every year according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates.

The demographic trends are undeniable. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported that the number of births dipped under 1 million babies for the third consecutive year while the number of deaths in 2018 was 1.369 million. Since 2013, more than 20% of Japan's population is over the age of 65 and that figure is forecasted to rise above 40% by 2060 while Japanese has an average life expectancy of 85 years as of 2016 (it was 81.25 as of 2006).

Concurrently, there are many swimming pools and thousands of kilometers of swimmable coastlines throughout Japan in a country where swimming is taught young. In 1955, the Shiun-maru ferry sunk in Japan after colliding with the Uko-maru ferry in a thick fog. Among the 168 people who died in the waters of the Seto Inland Sea, 100 elementary and junior high school students drowned.

Their deaths ultimately led the Japanese government to start a nationwide program of building pools and teaching swimming in public schools. Because most schools did not have a swimming pool on campus before the 1960s, Japan went on a pool building spree with over 86% of elementary schools, 73% of junior high schools and over 64% of high schools with pools with mandatory swimming instruction in school.

As a result, Japan has very successfully decreased the number of its drowning tragedies with the swimming policy [see here]. But, also very importantly, the collective swimming experience and abilities of the average Japanese citizen has led to a boom of swimming in their senior years.

One example is Toshio Tominaga (富永俊夫 in Japanese) who played water polo and swam in elementary and high school. Tominaga was a competitive swimmer, but then he began his professional career at a Japanese electronics corporation and took off from his competition for several decades.

As the intervening decades passed, Tominaga stayed in good shape, but he had to dramatically reduce the number of hours that he trained in a pool. But after retirement at the age of 62, Tominaga took to the oceans surrounding Japan and started to make up for lost time - staying healthy and staying in shape.

For years, he did numerous ocean swims from Okinawa in southern Japan and occasionally traveled overseas to swim in the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey in 2009 and an attempt across the English Channel in 2013. But the most difficult ocean swim in Japan, the Tsugaru Channel, was one of his life's goals. He trained and got himself physically and mentally prepared. He studied the logistics and different strategies of crossing the technically difficult 19.5 km channel.

In 2016 in northern Japan, the 73-year-old retiree finally achieved his dream swim.

"Tominaga-san had marvelous conditions as he started from Gongenzaki Cape on Aomori Prefecture [shown on left] on the main Japanese island of Honshu," explained Steven Munatones. "With Captain Mizushima at the helm, he started much later than other Tsugaru Channel swimmers, entering the water after 7 am."

Then he started to head north towards Hokkaido with a slight bearing just west of his goal.

On his main escort boat, Captain Mizushima continued to adjust his course based on the strength of the currents and wind. On his secondary boat to his left, his 67-year-old wife Yukiko cheered him on.

Tominaga remained lucky from start to finish with the generous conditions offered by Mother Nature.

He was able to swim on nearly a straight shot between his start on Gongenzaki Cape to the town of Fukushima on the southernmost part of Hokkaido, taking only 9 hours 58 minutes to cross.

Photos and video of Toshio Tominaga are courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi.

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association