California Travel Tips

Roughest Swims – Lake Tahoe, Farallones, San Nicholas & Catalina Islands

Published on: January 20, 2012

PHOTO: Catalina Island is lovely to visit, but only the most fit athletes would actually dare to circumnavigate the island in a daring swim comprised of 48 challenging miles filled with strong & adverse tidal conditions and aggressive sharks!

Open Water Source, a magazine designed for open water swimmers, compiled a list of the 15 toughest places in  the Northern Hemisphere to swim in open waters. California grabbed four spots, all known for their cold water challenges and added bonuses of nature providing obstacles such as sharks, jellyfish, tides, currents, long distances, high altitudes and logistics.  Excluding stage swims, adventure swims and relays that were categorized separately, here are some swims that you can try to wrap your arm-stroke around. Word to the wise–don’t try these without training & guidance, and don’t go without people watching you the entire way to help when troubles arise!

Roughest Open Water Swims in Northern Hemisphere:

  1. North Channel
  2. Kaieiewaho Channel
  3. Farallon Islands, California: 30 miles of huge ocean swells, extremely rough conditions, cold water (50-59°F), aggressive Great White Sharks, strong tides, the Potato Patch.
  4. English Channel
  5. Bering Strait
  6. Lake Pumori
  7. Isle of Wight
  8. Okinawa-to-Taiwan
  9. Cayman Islands
  10. San Nicholas Island, California: 69.3 miles of unforgiving ocean swells, extremely rough conditions, cold water (50-59°F), Great White Sharks, strong tides, punishing winds and flesh-nibbling sea creatures between the outermost California Channel Island and the California coast near Santa Barbara.
  11. Lake Tahoe, California: 21.2 miles at 6,225 feet in a large freshwater lake high up in the Sierra Nevada range in the western United States between the states of California and Nevada. Strong winds and consistent surface chop make for a long day.
  12. Loch Ness
  13. Lake Ontario
  14. Catalina Island, California: 48-mile circumnavigation around the Southern California Channel Island demands endurance, cold water acclimatization and precise timing to avoid strong adverse tidal conditions throughout the swim infested with aggressive sharks.
  15. Moloka’i Channel: A


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