08 Aug 2023 3 min read

Getting to know Lewis Pugh


Lewis Pugh aims to become the first person to swim the full length of the Hudson River in the US unassisted, to highlight the critical importance of protecting rivers.


Lewis Pugh is an endurance swimmer, environmental campaigner and UN Patron of the Oceans. His swims highlight the precarious state of our natural world. At LGIM, we are united with Lewis in our aim to tackle the climate crisis.

This year, he's embarking on one of his most ambitious swims yet, planning to become the first person to swim the full length of the Hudson River in the US unassisted. We caught up with him ahead of the swim to learn how he got into long-distance swimming.

Tell us a bit about your background: where did you grow up and what was your passion when you were young?

I was born in Plymouth. My father was a surgeon in the Royal Navy. My mother would read me books about the great explorers. Plymouth is a town with a proud maritime history. I used to watch the ships going out to sea and dream about exploration. It’s also the place where I first learned to swim.

How did you get into long-distance swimming?

We moved to South Africa when I was 10. We lived in Cape Town, also known as the ‘Cape of Storms’. That’s where I began open-water swimming. Through the window of my high school history classroom I could see Robben Island. My first long distance cold-water swim was from that historic landmark back to Cape Town. That was the beginning of my love for ocean swimming.

Why have you partnered with LGIM?

LGIM understands the impact that every decision has on our collective future. It recognises that biodiversity loss presents a major global systemic risk, and supports our call for 30% of the oceans to be protected by 2030. Biodiversity is so important, because it gives strength and resilience to our planet.

How can improving the habitats of our rivers and oceans help the world?

Oceans and rivers are intricately connected. Healthy oceans are key for life on Earth, but they have no choice but to accept what rivers bring them – and that often includes waste, sewage and toxins. So healthy rivers are crucial for healthy oceans.

What have been the scariest moments of some of your swims?

I’ve swum among sharks and jelly fish and leopard seals, but the scariest thing I’ve had to face in the water has been extreme cold. I’ve swum in water so cold it took months for me to recover full use of my hands. During one swim in Antarctica, my tongue actually froze inside my mouth.

Why did you decide to swim the Hudson River?

I’d been looking for a river that could tell the story of all rivers. The Hudson is an iconic river that begins in pristine wilderness and ends in a major city. Historically the river was badly misused and degraded, then cared for and revived in many areas, although there is still much work to be done. Because it ends at New York City where the United Nations has its headquarters, the Hudson is a river that can speak for all the world’s rivers, and spread the message that we need to restore and respect them.




LGIM contributors