Man swims the entire length of the Amazon
At the finish his blood pressure was at heart attack level, his entire body full of subcutaneous larvae, and besieged by dehydration, diarrhea, and exhaustion. Strel, who holds multiple Guinness world records for long-distance river swims, undertook this epic Amazon swim to call attention to deforestation and river pollution.
His journey was covered by national media around the world, and followed by tens of millions of readers on a website tracking his progress www. A documentary film of his journey will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Drawn from the eloquent and evocative trip diaries of writer Matthew Mohlke, who guided Strel armed with buckets of blood to divert piranha, The Man Who Swam the Amazon is a gripping and inspirational story of perseverance, passion, and endurance: A real-life odyssey of a rare and driven man.
Martin Strel is one of the most elite athletes in history. He holds three Guinness world records in distance swimming, and is about to earn his fourth for his Amazon swim. He earned his first Guinness in for swimming the entire Danube river, 1, miles, over 58 days. He then broke his own record in , by becoming the first person to swim the entire Mississippi, 2, miles, in 68 days. In , he broke his own record again by swimming 2, miles of the Yangtze.
Swimming the Amazon: 3, Miles on the World's Deadliest River
He broke his record once again with the Amazon swim. Martin also holds a world record for continuous swimming, miles in 84 hours in the Danube, which he completed in Later, the U. Congress passed a special resolution honoring Martin for his achievements and generosity. Matthew Mohlke graduated from Winona State University summa cum laude with a double major in marketing and psychology. One day, he scribbled ten dreams he had in his life on a bar napkin.
He realized he couldn't get there if he didn't leave the next day. He broke rules, things, and body parts like his nose, when another kid sucker-punched him , and his father beat him for it. Strel would run away whenever he could; he slept in the family barn so frequently that his mother took to leaving food and clothes in it. One day, Strel says, his father was chasing him when a stream cut off his escape. He jumped in and, with Dad pursuing on foot, ended up swimming for miles.
It was his first long-distance race. He also learned a very valuable lesson: Swim downstream. Strel's childhood is full of fabulous tales like that. He learned to swim, he says, in a pool he made by damming the Mirna River, not far from his home. Evidently he did a good job, because when he was ten a troop of soldiers decided to race one another in his river-made pool.
The winner got a crate of beer. Strel joined in and, although he was half their size and age, won the race, leaving with the beer. He's been swimming and drinking, the story goes, ever since. Strel escaped to Ljubljana as a teen, working an assortment of odd jobs, including paper boy, mechanic, and bricklayer. It wasn't until he was 24, on vacation on the Adriatic after graduating from the music academy where he learned to teach flamenco guitar, that Strel began to fulfill his aquatic destiny.
He was swimming long stretches along the crowded seawall, day after day, when one afternoon a man called him over. What followed was like a scene out of Hollywood, only one that would never happen in the U. He was the Yugoslavian national long-distance-swimming coach. Race in lakes and oceans around the world?
This was in Strel signed the requisite papers that day and, less than three months later, completed his first mile race. He got married he and his wife, Nusa, an architect, are now separated and had two children: Borut, 28, who lives near his father in Ljubljana and serves as his project manager, publicist, and head cheerleader, and Nina, 24, a student in Monte Carlo. Strel performed well enough on the race circuit to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. But open-water swimming is an invisible sport, and Strel wasn't the best. So in , a year after Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia, Strel left racing behind and swam the mile-long Krka River in 28 hours, nonstop.
It was a cold, miserable ordeal, but he emerged with a mission: to swim the longest distances ever while saving the planet on the side. His M. Strel himself cites the environmental concerns he'd developed over more than a decade of swimming in dirty water. Either way, he attacked his mission with relish. He tackled the Kupa, which forms part of Slovenia's boundary with Croatia, in , and has since swum every river the young nation has to offer except one.
His first foray outside his country's borders, his 1,mile descent of the Danube in , set the world record for distance. The next year Strel went back to the Danube and set the record for nonstop swimming, covering miles in 84 hours. When I asked if he slept on his back during this swim, perhaps kicking to maintain his momentum, he laughed and explained, "No, no.
Not possible. First night, no sleep. Second night, slept five, six times, less than ten minutes total. This shows how strong mind is. Mind is power, believe me. Fat is power, too. You wouldn't last one week on the Amazon. It's hard to overestimate the physical toll Strel's swims take on his body. It's not just the actual swimming, which is plenty grueling, but the isolation and the environment.
On the Yangtze, Strel told me, doctors gave him daily transfusions of new, clean blood for the last ten days. Almost destroyed liver. It was black by end of swim. Men facedown, women breast up. Many dead bodies. As the mileage piled up and momentum grew and thousands of fans in Slovenia, Brazil, and around the world tracked his daily progress, Strel lost both his strength and his mind.
In the final weeks, Borut, in addition to running the expedition, dealing with the global media, and translating for his dad, had to feed Martin his meals and carry him to and from the water. Borut is Martin's Everything Man and, indicative of their close working relationship, calls his father by his first name.
Strel fervently believes not only in being overweight but also in the replenishing power of the vine.
A breathlessly Amazon feat
Soon enough, I lost count. Strel is a star in his native Slovenia. Women of a certain age blush and giggle at the mere mention of his name.
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He is a heroic national treasure, sought after for endorsements and advice. He judges national beauty contests. Appears in Slovenian movies. Meets with heads of state. Basically he can do whatever he wants: Swim and sauna free at the country's biggest pool complex.
Double-park in front of swanky hotels.