Home WOWSA Awards WOWSA 2010 Nominees for 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Nominees for 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

This award is not necessarily for the fastest swimmer, but are meant to honor the man who (1) best embodies the spirit of open water swimming, (2) possesses the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and (3) has most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in 2010.

1. Captain Earl Sandvik (USA), Pilot and Volunteer Extraordinaire

100 and counting. That is the number of events that Captain Earl Sandvik has worked as a pilot boat captain for NYC Swim.

Whether protecting swimmers in the waters from ferries, boats or barges, guiding swimmers on special solo attempts or talking with his peers in the maritime industry about open water swimming, Captain Sandvik is a large and helpful presence, very well-known on the waterways of New York City.

With his friendly smile extended to all, his professional demeanor when piloting during races and his trademark lingo that he uses on the radio, the Captain is a great friend and invaluable supporter of the thousands of athletes from dozens of countries who annually come to New York City for open water events.

Due to his years of selfless devotion to the sport and extraordinarily professional support of swimmers in the busy waterways of New York City, Captain Sandvik is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

2. Chad Ho (South Africa), Pro Swimmer
Chad Ho won the 2010 FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit. From January in Santos, Brazil to October in Cancun, Mexico, Chad has demonstrated consistent competitiveness with his 10K marathon swimming rivals in oceans, lakes and bays around the world. Always in the mix and tough in any environment, his success is all the more remarkable because he swims without a coach or trainer feeding him along the way – just 4 gel packs in his swimsuit and he is on his way.

Chad, the youngest male swimmer at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim where he placed ninth, looks to be on his way to proudly represent South Africa once again at the 2012 London Olympics.

For his continued growth as an athlete, his commitment to the sport despite living so far away from all the major races and his friendly, humble nature, Chad Ho is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

3. Chris Palfrey (Australia), Record Setting Marathon Swimmer
Chris Palfrey, the 52-year-old husband of fellow nominee Penny Palfrey, had a year to remember. Not only did he set a 42K Molokai Channel record of 12 hours and 53 minutes, he also completed the 19.7K Rottnest Channel Swim solo, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Magnetic Island to Townsville and had an unsuccessful Catalina Channel swim.

His 14th consecutive Magnetic Island to Townsville swim among sharks is a record that he keeps adding to year after year. He continues to travel the world, together with his wife, doing unprecedented swims from California (Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz Island in the Santa Barbara Channel) as well as the standard marathon swimming races such as the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (in 2007, 2008 and 2009) and the Rottnest Channel Swim (9 consecutive solo crossings from 2000 to 2010). He has one more swim this year – a swim where he will face the threat of sharks, crocodiles and a type of jellyfish that is the most venomous creature on Earth.

For his tenacity in continuing to push himself throughout the waterways of the world while being the male part of the First Couple of Open Water Swimming, Chris Palfrey is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

4. Dave Barra (USA), Master Marathoner
No amateur or masters swimmer competed as much as did the 45-year-old Dave Barra in 2010. Beginning during the harsh winter months in New York’s Mid Hudson Valley, Dave trained for an impressive 2010 season when he crossed the 9.6-mile (15.4K) Maui Channel between the Lanai and Maui in Hawaii on March 21st in 4:55, finished 2nd in the 24-mile (38.6K) Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in Florida on April 17th in 10:49 and finished 15th in the 28.5-mile (45.8K) Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in New York on June 12th in 8:30 – the first leg of his Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. He then crossed the 21-mile (33.7K) Catalina Channel in California on July 20th in 15:37 – on his second leg of the Triple Crown. He finished 7th in the 8-mile (12.8K) Boston Light Swim in Massachusetts on August 14th in 3:00:31 and then successfully crossed the English Channel on September 1st in 14:27 to complete the Triple Crown in the second shortest time period ever (81 days). His marathon year ended with the 17.5-mile (28.1K) Ederle Swim from New York to New Jersey.

For being such a humble working man quietly passionate about the sport with one of the most prolific and successful seasons on record (129.6 miles or 208K total), Dave Barra is nominated as the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

5. Lewis Pugh (Great Britain), Environmentalist and Pioneer Swimmer
Achieving the Impossible is the name of Lewis Pugh’s autobiography and simply what he does. In 2010, Lewis climbed to new heights.


The former Special Air Service soldier scaled Mt. Everest and swam across a recently formed lake to draw attention to the melting glaciers in the Himalayas and the impact the reduced water supply will have on peace in the region.

His breath-taking 22 minute 51 second 1K swim in Lake Imja in 2°C (35.6°F) at 17,000 feet (5,200 meters) with a pair of Speedos, swim cap and goggles was covered by media around the world. His latest exploit in a series of swims he has undertaken has drawn attention to the consequences of climate change and was suitably dramatic.

For his engaging and educational speeches that reach millions of people around the world, including Heads of State, and his ability to swim at the extreme ends of the world, from the North to South Poles and from the English Channel to Mt. Everest, Lewis Pugh is a worthily nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

6. Marcos Díaz (Dominican Republic), Humanitarian Swimmer
Marcos Díaz figuratively swam around the world, bridging together people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds in his unique and unprecedented Swim Across the Continents project. Marcos not only swam between the continents, but he more importantly brought significant global attention to the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations that supported his swims from Papua New Guinea (Oceania) to Indonesia (Asia) (20K in 4:18), from Yemen (Asia) to Djibouti (Africa) (18.6K in 4:55), from Spain (Europe) to Morocco (Africa) (22K in 2:41) and from Alaska (North America) to Big Diomede Island, Russia (Asia) (5K in 1:05). He met everyone from high-ranking politicians and influential business people to simple folk and wide-eyed children along the way, inspiring and wowing them all with his force of personality and humanitarian vision. For his incredible drive and goals that are symbolized by his motto, “One Man – Five Continents – Many Voices”, the humble and innovative nature of a truly international athlete is more than enough reason to nominate Marcos Díaz as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

7. Michael Oram (Great Britain), Escort Pilot Extraordinaire
Online, in person and in the English Channel, there is no one with a greater scope of experience than Michael Oram when it comes to escorting a swimmer safely and successfully across the English Channel.

Michael has piloted over 500 individuals and relays across the English Channel including dozens of record-setting swimmers.

He analyzes the swimmer’s abilities and potential and combines this knowledge with a deep understanding of the multifarious and impetuous nature of the English Channel to plot the swimmer’s course. Off-season he drives and pushes athletes to make decisions – and educated ones at that – and make commitments for what becomes, for many, their ultimate athletic achievement. Navigation, training, preparation, hydration, fueling, stroke technique, coordination with the government authorities…Michael’s experience is a treasure that he shares with all those interested in tackling one of the greatest endurance challenges of mankind.

For his endless drive, his coordination with the athletes and authorities and his track record of success, Michael Oram is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

8. Ned Denison (Ireland), Administrator, Coach, Educator
The personable Ned Denison constantly motivates, educates, organizes and assists thousands of swimmers from California to Ireland in a sport that he passionately serves with compassion, experience and a relentless drive. As the chairman of Swim Ireland’s first National Open Water Swimming Committee, he still swims and holds three records noted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. He guides many individuals – of all ages and abilities – to achieve their marathon swimming goals, including many who venture to cross the English Channel. He founded and oversees the Cork Ireland Long Distance Swim Camp and the Irish Champion of Champions Swim and authored much of the open water content on the Swim Ireland website, including putting together the first national list of open water swims. He organizes overseas travel for open water swimmers and continues to serve on the board of directors of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association in California and for the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the Kingdom Swim in Vermont.

For his engaging personality, relentless passion for the sport, and his onshore, in the water and online support of open water swimmers, Ned Denison is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

9. Nino Fazio (Italy), Passionate Open Water Promoter
Nino Fazio is a powerhouse of a motivator and promoter of open water swimming in Sicily, Italy. The 49-year-old masters swimmer creatively and comprehensively documented the six-decade history of swimming in the Strait of Messina.

Besides his role as a historian in the area, he is also deeply involved in the promotion and organization of races and solo swims in the area. His whirlwind activities are non-stop and year-round as he encourages people with disabilities, individuals leading sedentary lifestyles, masters swimmers and young competitive swimmers to take up the joys and challenges of open water swimming. After years of helping others achieve their dreams, Nino, an architect by training and a collector and commentator on acoustic and electric guitars, also set two double-crossing records across the Strait of Messina this summer.

For his passion, documentation of the sport and organization of solo swims and competitive races, Nino Fazio is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

10. Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria), World Champion Professional Swimmer
10 years running. A decade on top. Petar Stoychev has dominated the most difficult and longest professional marathon swimming circuit in the world for ten long years, tactically winning races, outlasting his competition and traveling the world to compete in every professional marathon swim possible. Throughout 2010, Petar was seemingly everywhere playing his trade. The 2009 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, won races in Macedonia and Canada including the prestigious 32K Traversee du Lac St-Jean and the 34K Traversee du Lac Magog. He also competed in 15K and 57K races in Argentina, 15K race in Mexico, finished third in the FINA 25K World Championships, second in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim World Record Attempt and is in fourth place in the competitive FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit. Petar has also taken the time to participate in the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and the FINA Athletes Commission in order to help govern and promote the sport of open water swimming.

For his unprecedented 10-year reign over the fastest marathon swimmers on the planet and his multi-lingual frank approach to promoting open water swimming, Petar Stoychev is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

11. Valerio Cleri (Italy), World Champion
Multi-lingual Valerio Cleri was the world 10K champion after a courageous swim in lac St-Jean in Quebec, Canada. Facing down all of the world’s fastest open water swimmers, Valerio won comfortably and established himself as a top gold medal contender leading up to the 2012 London Olympics.

Valerio also came in a close second in the world 25K championships after a 5-hour battle. His training regimen is legendary, training day and night, at sea level and at high-altitude mountains, always enthusiastic and passionate about his chosen sport and profession. He also dominated the Italian National Open Water Swimming Championships, winning the 5K, 10K and 25K races that proves his versatility and love for competition. He also won a handful of other 5K and 10K swims around Europe.

For his commitment to the sport, his athletic abilities (speed, endurance and tactics) and role as an international elite sports ambassador, Valerio Cleri is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

12. Ventura Deep Six Relay (USA), World Record Holders
A group of six men from the same masters swimming team in Ventura, California – who call themselves the Ventura Deep Six Relay – decided to break and destroy the world’s longest non-stop open water swimming relay under traditional English Channel rules (six swimmers rotating every one hour without wetsuits or a change in rotation order). The intrepid group who range in age from 42 to 59, started in Ventura, headed north to Santa Barbara and then swam south to finish their 202-mile (325K) journey in 4 days as they went through 17 different rotations, never breaking stroke or rotation order to set the new world record that will be difficult to break. Tom Ball, Kurtis Baron, John Chung, Jim McConica, Jim Neitz and Mike Shaffer overcame intense fog, cold water that got as low as 56°F (13°C), large ocean swells, tremendous chop for hours on end, gigantic pods of playful dolphin and flesh-eating fish.

Their logistical and operations team was over two dozen supporters who constantly fed and guided the men as they zigzagged their way along the coast. For overcoming doubts, the elements and the physiological wear of constant swimming for four days in the unforgiving ocean, the Ventura Deep Six Relay is collectively nominated for the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

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