Martin Strel may call the landlocked and extremely arid city of Phoenix, Arizona home, but do not be fooled—he is possibly the most qualified person alive to attempt the insanely ambitious feat of swimming the entire circumference of Earth, or about 25,000 miles. Strel, who estimates the journey will take 450 days and take him through 107 countries (don't worry, he has a diplomatic passport), has already swum the lengths of the Amazon, Yangtze, and Mississippi rivers, which are all well over 2,000 miles long. And before finding his passion for long-distance swimming he was a professional swimmer for a number of years.
It's no coincidence that Strel is departing on his latest and greater endeavor on March 22, World Water Day. You don't just hop in the water and swim for over a year without a good cause in mind, and Strel's is to raise awareness of the rapid pollution happening in water bodies around the world and to highlight the importance of clean water. In a recent interview with GOOD, Strel, who is originally from Slovenia, said that water in Europe a few decades ago was polluted and trash-strewn, but the region has since cleaned up its act. He thinks it's time for the rest of the world to follow suit.
Having had extremely intimate experiences with dirty, polluted water in the past, Strel hopes to mostly avoid nasty waterways this time around; only entering them to draw attention to their unpleasant state. Instead he plans to stay mostly in oceans, where it's harder to get sick. Running into a few pieces a stray garbage is a lot more appealing that inhaling amoebas.
And when the going gets tough, Strel and his team (he swims with at least one accompanying vessel) are ready to rise to the challenge. On his 3,728-mile swim down the Amazon, chronicled in the 2009 documentary “Big River Man,” his escorts poured blood into the river to distract piranhas—though in the end he still got bit.
While Strel is obviously a bit of a superhuman, he may have one unusual advantage on his side. According to the New York Times, his body doesn't create lactic acid, which most people produce while exercising and which in turn leads to muscle fatigue.
In building the hype for this trip, Strel swam the 2.2-mile stretch between the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center last September, a brief dip that took him around an hour. He plans to swim between five and 12 hours a day during his around the world tour, which he will commence from Long Beach, California.