Big River Man

Big River Man

Martin Strel may look like your average obese, alcoholic, middle-aged gentleman. However, he does stand out from this crowd in one significant respect: Martin Strel swims big rivers. He swims them from start to finish. Read this carefully: Martin Strel has swum the entire length of the Amazon river.

Martin Strel swims the amazon

The Slovenian achieved this world record-setting feat in 2007. It took him 66 days to swim the 3,273 miles (5,268 km) – which is further than the width of the Atlantic. He swam an average of 52 miles a day, sleeping less than five hours a night. Like the pororoca surfers, Strel faced crocodiles, piranha, waterborne disease, burning sun and blinding rain. He said before the attempt, “Maybe God and the moon will protect me?”

As things turned out, help came from another direction:

“The best protection I had was from pink dolphins who swam alongside me every day, I think that was the best protection against bull sharks. I also drank a special wine, which helped me a lot.”

Martin Strel

It takes a special type of insanity to do what Strel does, but he is not totally detached from reality. He dedicated the Amazon swim to the protection of the rainforests and to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Mentally, Strel himself is not unaffected by the challenges he undertakes, and he claimed that several years after the Amazon swim he had still not re-adjusted psychologically.

I am a regular man, a regular common guy who just has higher goals than usual. I want to show everybody around the world that if you set a goal that is a little bit unusual or higher, you have to try to achieve it. If you keep working and don’t quit right away, you will come to the end. This could be whatever. I chose to swim the Amazon.

…and the Yangtze (2,487 miles), the Mississippi (2,360 miles) and the Danube (1,866 miles).

Strel was christened ‘Big River Man’ in a 2009 documentary of the same name. (Watch it on YouTube here for a fee, or maybe you can find a free version on there…) If you want to go for a swim with him, you can book a trip on his website, Martin Strel Swimming Adventure Tours.

I think Martin Strel just became my hero.

Read Martin Strel’s diary of the Amazon trip on the BBC

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Great article! We also invite all adventure swimmers to join our swimming adventure tours in Slovenia, Croatia and Lake Powell, Arizona. Swim and have fun, we will do the rest! Strel Swimming Team