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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seven Summits vs. Oceans Seven - Which Is Harder?

The Oceans Seven is open water swimming's version of the Seven Summits.

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains in each of the seven continents that 348 people have successfully achieved.

These 348 people have set a bar that others seek to achieve. Their Seven Summits takes years of effort, money, equipment, and mind-boggling focus and endurance.

The Seven Summit mountaineers have climbed Kilimanjaro (5,892m/19,340 ft) in Africa, Vinson Massif (4,892m/16,050 ft) in Antarctica, Everest (8,848m/29,035 ft) in Asia, Elbrus (5,642m/18,510 ft) in Europe, Mount McKinley (6,194m/20,320 ft) in North America, Aconcagua (6,962m/22,841 ft) in South America, and either Kosciuszko (2,228m/7,310 ft) or Carstensz Pyramid (4,884m/16,024 ft) in Australia.

However, no one has yet successfully swum the English Channel (between England and France), the North Channel (between Scotland and Ireland, the Catalina Channel (between Catalina Island and Southern California, USA), the Molokai Channel (between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii, USA), the Tsugaru Channel (between Honshu and Hokkaido islands in Japan), the Cook Strait (between North and South islands in New Zealand) and the Strait of Gibraltar (between Spain and Morocco).

Although land-based endurance athletes and mountaineers may hold different opinions, we believe completing the seven different channels of the Oceans Seven is more challenging than climbing the Seven Summits. There are various reasons for this opinion.

1. Fundamentally, swimming is more difficult than walking. It is estimated that less than 2% of the world's population can swim 500 meters non-stop so it stands to reason that fewer people can swim a channel than the number of people who can climb a mountain.

2. More solutions are available to combat altitude sickness than seasickness, including time. An athlete can ascend slowly, take the drug acetazolamide, Dexamethasone, Nifedipine or sumatriptan, or undergo oxygen enrichment.

3. If the weather or conditions get bad in a climb, time is on the side of the climber. If the conditions get bad in a channel swim, you have to get out. That is, the windows of opportunities are smaller.

4. Attire can prevent hypothermia in Seven Summits, but not in the Ocean's Seven.

5. Mountaineers can be assisted by others; a swimmer must take every single stroke by themselves.

6. Beasts and creatures generally do not hamper humans on a mountain while sharks and jellyfish are present immense obstacles.

7. Mountaineers can generally talk, see and hear things while climbing, but their visual, auditory and verbal abilities are hampered.

8. Climbers can rest and sleep on their way up the mountain, but open water swimmers still have to tread water when "at rest" and sleeping is definitely out of the question.

But anyone who achieves a Seven is a remarkable individual with the stamina, mental toughness and physical abilities exceedingly rare in this world.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source


  1. Oceans 7 is considerably easier than the 7 Summits. You only have to look at the death / injury rates on the mountains to realize that. In 2010 I watched as all the bodies were being brought off Mt Everest. The same does not happen in Dover.

  2. Lewis / Steven, I don't think we should necessarily confuse risk or danger with difficulty. It would perhaps make more sense to look at the failure rates (no. of finishes/no. of starts) as a measure of difficulty. Obviously, in mountaineering the consequence of failure can be more severe as Lewis points out but the risk of failure may be lower. Lewis's swims excepted, the consequence of most failed swims is a boat ride, although sadly people do also die while swimming.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. My opinion would be that the mountains would be a faster achievement-
    Quite a few of the mountains can now be climbed by agencies (mountain tourism) & charities with assistance right to the nth step of the summit, with equipment, medical, diet etc decided and catered for them-I know a few who have climbed 5/7 and all under guidance. I am not degrading their efforts but they are not as vulnerable to risk as those who climb without assistance and on their own mental capacity and will.
    Without doubt the level of energy output is lower when all risks are managed by another person guiding them. When weather hits they can sit it out, go lower down, shelter and continue to feed, and then reassault-They can have several attempts to reach the summit/goal. So it would first have to be divided into mountain tourism/Charities and pure climbing.

    Swimming the Ocean's 7-Firstly the swimmer HAS to be of a supreme standard. Thankfully there are not any non qualified swimmers taking on these challenges-if there were,the outcome might be comparable to the negative as it is on the mountain. I agree with Steven there is no where to hide in the sea.
    Lewis-I don't know if the number of bodies on Everest would equate to the volume of people on the mountain/their own abilities/their buy in to the project or is it a reflection of the danger of the event-
    My personal opinion would be that swimmers/climbers have negative outcomes not necessarily because of the danger but the lack of experience and ability to cope.
    Certainly I can say that no amount of money can buy your way across the North Channel-13 swimmers in history have achieved it-maybe you could bluff your way across certain seas as pristine conditions-but once darkness hits there is no where to hide in the sea-and I don't mean physical darkness-Sometimes the swimmer can swim but the boat can't cover-swim over!.
    Anne Marie Ward swam for 19hrs in 12 deg water-in the North Channel-for this to compare with a climber, output wise-it would prob be 2 days without sitting down-without closing your eyes-Is climbing more difficult?? If you were to look at the outlay from the human body-emotionally, physically, the effects of the stings/salt water immersion, swelling of throat/face etc-ability to continue swimming when joints seize.. I would have to say that the 21st climber to me is a more protected athlete.

    We are already witnessing many rescues from swimmers/triathletes who don't have a plan B when the conditions change close to shore, event organisers who get in difficulty with tides/conditions but we are heading into difficult times with the explosion of numbers. I feel that the physical/emotional/and psych effect on swimmers post an exhaustive swim in conditons is greater than that of a climber.

  5. Having done a bit of both, I'd say the 7 summits are far more difficult. No one has ever climbed Everest in under 10 hours.


Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.


The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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