Lewis Pugh is a British endurance swimmer who uses some unique tactics as an environmental activist. He’s championing “Speedo Diplomacy” to protect the world’s oceans by swimming in some of the coldest waters one could image, wearing nothing more than, you guessed it, a speedo.
Pugh’s latest included a 17 and a half minute swim in the Bellingshausen Sea and, spoiler alert, a little bit of hypothermia once he got out of the water. “It felt like 17 days,” he told National Geographic. “Anyone who says they enjoy swimming in cold water has never really done it.”
As someone who doesn’t claim to enjoy swimming in cold water or even knew there was a group of people who do, my first question is how something like this would actually save the ocean. Apparently, Pugh was part of a 5-year campaign that earned a Marine Protected Area designation for the Ross Sea in October, an area larger than the UK, France, Germany and Italy combined. The swims raise awareness for the area(s) and what environmental challenges exist, and boom, you’ve got yourself a headline grabber. The success of the Ross Sea campaign sparked Antarctica 2020, in which he hopes to secure three more MPA’s in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and the Bellingshausen Sea by 2020. Combined, that’s a mass of sea roughly the size of Australia, covering 2.7 million square miles. According to the 47-year old swimmer, the MPA designation makes those areas more resistant to climate change and allows them to recover from potential overfishing.