Of course, “most famous” is a subjective term, but the Waikiki Roughwater Swim fits the bill as well as any swim in the world!
The beach of Waikiki is one of the most well known beaches in the world, with perfect sand, wind, waves and sunny temperatures. But it is not the only idylic swimming spot in the world. Other races in tropical paradise’s like Turks and Caicos Race for the Conch, El Cruce in Cancun, Mexico, or the Barbados Open Water Festival are just a few that come to mind.
The Waikiki Roughwater Swim started in 1970. But there are several older swims around the world, such as the Liffey Swim in Dublin, Ireland, which is almost 100 years old, as it has run continuously since 1920.
At around 1,000 swimmers in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, there are also bigger races, such as the Vansbro Swim in Sweden, with 14,000 swimmers and the Midmar Mile in South Africa, with 15,000 swimmers.
But the WRS has a very storied and famous history since it was founded by Jim Cotton in 1970. Since then there have been many Olympic medalists (like 6 time medalist Rebecca Soni) and countless world class swimmers, and even movie stars (including Buster Crabbe who played Tarzan).
However, when you wrap all of these amazing facts of location, age, size and history into one race it makes it a very special race. But what puts it over the top is that it is the race that went on to make a whole other sport famous.
In 1978, during an awards banquet for the Waikiki Swim Club, John Collins, a Naval Officer stationed in Hawaii, and his fellow athletes began debating which athletes were the fittest: swimmers, bikers, or runners. Later, he and his wife Judy, who had both participated in new competitions known as triathlons in San Diego, decided to combine three of the toughest existing endurance races on the island: the 2.4 mile (3.8k) Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the 112 mile (180k) Round the Island Bike Ride and the 26.2 mile (42.2k) Honolulu Marathon.
On February 18, 1978, 15 competitors, including Collins, came to the shores of Waikiki to take on the first-ever Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon. “And the whoever comes first we’ll call the Ironman”.
So mark it on your calendar, September 1, 2018, and come and be a part of swimming history… make your own history!