Words by Jade Bremner | Photography Strel Swimming
The gnarliest swimmer you’ve probably never heard of, Martin Strel is so badass he gets his safety crew to chuck buckets of blood overboard so he can swim through the piranha-infested waters of the Amazon ignoring any occasional nip that comes his way, of course. This 61-year-old Slovenian powerhouse has defied death on numerous occasions. He holds five Guinness World Records for swimming the lengths of the Danube (1,866 miles), the Mississippi (2,360 miles), the Yangtze (2,487 miles) and the Amazon River (3,273 miles). “I’m not Michael Jordan or Michael Phelps, but I’m happy,” he says nonchalantly, before his next ultra-challenge.
“I swim for peace, friendship, and clean water”
The down to earth athlete drinks booze every day, has the body of a mini-sumo wrestler, and some say Strel is borderline insane, but his driving force is clear – to monitor the world’s oceans. “I swim for peace, friendship, and clean water,” says Strel, and he makes friends in high places. “I’m a little politician, I’m a diplomat,” he tells me. He’s had the ear of some of the most powerful people on the planet, having dined with the Trumps and even swum with the Romanian prime minister, but he hopes his next swim will really make a difference. This November, Strel will go on a monumental journey across almost all of the world’s oceans, swimming through the waters in 109 countries, over 24,900miles+ in 470 days – to raise awareness about the state of pollution in the world’s seas.