Ardent Maritime Advocate and Endurance Swimmer

Session by Lewis William Gordon Pugh

Day 2  •  September 6

3.45PM - 5.00PM


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Lewis William Gordon Pugh is the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world. To date, he has pioneered more swims around famous landmarks than any other swimmer in history. As an ocean advocate, pioneer swimmer and explorer, Lewis puts his hard-learned lessons into the context of corporate environments.

Lewis will share his insights into the preparation, teamwork, and leadership skills that are needed for any major undertaking, including the vision that enabled him to undertake the first swim across the sub-zero waters of the North Pole. The most crucial success factor is to have a driving purpose, which for him is to protect our planet's threatened oceans.

Lewis William Gordon Pugh is a British-South African endurance swimmer and ocean advocate.

He has been described as the ‘Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming’. He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world, and frequently swims in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to their plight.

Pugh is best known for undertaking the first swim across the North Pole in 2007 to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice. In 2010, he swam across a glacial lake on Mount Everest to draw attention to the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas, and the impact the reduced water supply will have on peace in the region. In 2018 he swam the full length of the English Channel to call for 30 per cent of the world's oceans to be protected by 2030.

He undertakes all of his swims, even those in the Polar Regions, according to Channel Swimming Rules — in just a Speedo costume, cap and goggles.

In 2010, Pugh was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and in 2013 the United Nations appointed him as the first UN Patron of the Oceans.

In 2016, he played a pivotal role in creating the largest marine reserve in the world, in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. The media coined the term ‘Speedo Diplomacy’ to describe his efforts swimming in the icy waters of Antarctica, and shuttling between the USA and Russia to help negotiate the final agreement.

Pugh currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at the University of Cape Town.