Saturday, July 11, 2009

Swimming to Morocco!

Among mountaineers there exists a supreme challenge - the Seven Summits - which entails successfully scaling the highest mountains in each of the seven continents.

However, if you prefer your challenges at sea level, there is the "Ocean's Seven". It appears that nobody has yet completed the seven open water crossings and when you look at the list it is easy to see why.

The "seven" are: the Irish Channel between Ireland and Scotland, Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, the Moloka’i Channel between O’ahu and Moloka’i Islands in Hawaii, the English Channel between England and France, the Catalina Channel in Southern California, the Tsugaru Channel between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan, and the Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa. It is this last one that particularly interests us.

Recently we posted a story about the ferry service between Spain and Morocco, but if you are fit, resolute and have very little luggage, you might like to attempt the swim.

According to 10K Tom Hecker from Carmel Valley, California crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 3 hours, 40 minutes back in 2006. There are ferry services that are slower!

Again according 10K the shortest journey across the Strait of Gibraltar is between Punta Oliveros in Spain and Punta Cires in Morocco. Most attempts are made from Tarifa Island due to the influence of strong currents, a distance of 18.5-22K (10-12 miles)

However, it is not simply a matter of strapping on your floaties, goggles and flippers. The route is 14.4K (8 miles) across an eastern flow of water from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea with an average of 3 knots (5.5 km per hour). Heavy boat traffic, logistical barriers and surface chop confront swimmers throughout each attempt.

The best time of year is June to October. There may still be high winds and unpredictable water conditions so it is understandable that only 185 successful one-way crossings and 7 double-crossings have been made to date. The first was by an English woman back in 1928. The most crossings by an individual stands at eight by Spaniard Pere Estatuet Llorens. The fastest time to date is 2 hours 36 minutes by Czech, David Cech.

By this stage in our research The View from Fez team were packing their swimming costumes and heading for the Med.

Then we discovered the THE GIBRALTAR STRAIT SWIMMING ASSOCIATION. Yes, we kid you not, it exists.

To quote from their website: The Association is engaged to carry out all the bureaucratic procedures for the Spanish and Moroccan Maritime Administrations, as well as to arrange, by means of payment of the corresponding expenses, the human and material means legally demanded for the development of the event. At the end of this, The Association will facilitate the necessary documentation that certifies the achievement of the objectives and will proceed to include the swimmer in the official list of those swimmers who have crosses the Gibraltar Strait in its different categories. Impressive.

Oh... and don't forget your passport as the Moroccans will check!

We are in debt to one of our readers for this amazing bit of synchronicity: Jalil Mounir Belcaid was the 1st Moroccan swimmer to swim across to Spain in 3 hours & 45 minutes and he did so yesterday, the 10th of July!

For more details on how to register for a swim to Morocco go to


sarah said...

Interesting hobby for those with excess energy, I used to always read about mountaineering but it seems that sea level sports are just as demanding. I hope to get to Morocco this year but I think I will arrive the regular way

Anonymous said...

Jalil Mounir Belcaid was the 1st Moroccan swimmer to swim across to Spain in 3 hours & 45 minutes last Friday the 10th of July .