Conquering the Open Water: Q&A with Long-Distance Swimmer Lynne Cox

She swam across the Catalina Straight at age 14. She was the first person to swim across the Bering Strait, opening the border between the US and the Soviet Union. She swam 1.22 miles in Antarctica. But long-distance open-water swimmer Lynne Cox is not just a fearless athlete and explorer; she is also a bestselling author and inspirational speaker.

Lynne’s six books, some of which have been translated into 22 languages, tell the stories of her prolific swimming career, both the ups and downs. The obstacles Lynne has faced have been enormous (truly life or death), but being clear on her life’s purpose has provided her with the mental strength and stamina she has needed to continue on.

We spoke to Lynne about how she handles obstacles while in the open water, who her heroes are and what keeps her swimming.

What is it about the open water that you love so much?

Lynne: I love the water because there are no limits. You can swim as far as you want and not have to turn around. It’s free, open, spacious, and being in the open water allows you to think large; to imagine things you’ve never imagined before. I love being in water because of the environment I’m in. There are often dolphins, seals, sea lions or grey whales swimming with me. It’s amazing to be in an environment so close to these creatures.

When you’re swimming and face an obstacle, what keeps you going?

Lynne: Sometimes when I’m facing an obstacle, I’ll stop. I’ll tread water, talk to my crew on the boat and ask the pilot, am I hitting a current? Is there something going on that I don’t know about? I’ll look to my team for that support. Sometimes I will just stop, take a breath and drink some warm apple juice to get my blood sugar up again.

Why tell your story?

Lynne: Because I think that it’s inspiring. I’ve imagined doing things that nobody has ever thought of doing, and then I’ve succeeded at completing them. People don’t realize how powerful they are. They can make a positive difference in the world, and it begins with the idea that they are powerful, significant and that they can connect with other people to help them do extraordinary things.

What do you consider your single biggest achievement?

Lynne: I think that it’s each project that I’ve done. I build upon my successes and my failures, then regroup and go beyond what I’ve done before. For instance, when I was 14 I decided I wanted to swim across the Catalina Channel with a bunch of kids. People doubted that a 14-year-old could do this. But there were extraordinary athletes around me from all over the world, and I saw what they did and wanted to be like them. I followed the extraordinary herd.

Who is your hero?

Lynne: I have so many. I’ve had so many people through my life who have helped me and given me opportunities. There’s just no one person. You have different heroes at different times of your life, depending on what you need.

What’s your superpower?

Lynne: My superpower is inspiring people to reach their highest level.

What are you reading right now?

Lynne: There’s a book that I recently read that I loved, Ruthless River, which has just been optioned as a film. It’s a husband and wife that decides to take a boat ride down the Amazon. Things go wrong, they end up not taking a boat and they take a plane instead. Instead of this wonderful trip through the Amazon, it becomes a story of survival. It’s so compelling.

If you weren’t a speaker, author and athlete, what would you do?

Lynne: I would be an opera singer.

What are you searching for?

Lynne: To make a positive difference on the world as I go through my life.

Lynne’s story is one of grit, inspiration and wonder, and she is coming to Studio/E for our Hero Speaker Series on the evening of Tuesday, March 6. If you’d like to meet this boundary-defying athlete, hear her unrivaled stories first-hand and receive a copy of her book, Swimming to Antarctica, we invite you to join us. You can purchase your ticket here.

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