Conversations with Pedro: A Swim Legend TED ERIKSON (1928 – 2021)
93-Year-Old Swimming Legend Celebrates Anniversary of World Record Setting Swim.
After surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, historic swimmer joins athletic community to mark 60 years since he became first person to swim across Lake Michigan in the midst of a storm.
[June 22, 2021] — After surviving the shark-infested waters of the Gulf of Farallones, jellyfish attacks on the English Channel, the Great Depression—and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic—marathon swimming legend Ted Erikson is ready to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the dangerous world record-setting swim that first put him on the map of history: his August 22, 1961 crossing of Lake Michigan.
Known for its deadly currents and seiches, Lake Michigan causes more drownings each year than the four other Great Lakes combined. Alaskan professor Harry Briggs and lifeguard Joe Griffith attempted to swim across the lake a total of five times before Chicago car salesman Jim “The Courtesy Man” Moran sponsored a race with a prize of $3,675—or $100 for each of 36.75 miles between Chicago and Michigan City—to the swimmer who could finally accomplish the feat.
On August 21, 1961, Erikson jumped in the water alongside five other swimmers—including accomplished marathoner Mary Margaret Revell—only to be sent off course by a squall that created waves as high as 16 feet. By 2 a.m. everyone in the race had dropped out but Erikson, who persisted for 36 hours and 37 minutes. He covered a total of 43 miles before clambering onto the pier at Michigan City to be greeted by cheering crowds. He set a world record not only for first crossing of the lake but also for time spent in the water for an endurance swim.
Erikson went on to set another world record in 1965, this time for speed, as only the second round-trip swimmer of the English Channel. He set yet another world record in 1967 as the first person to make the swim from the Farallon Islands off the coast of California to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This record went unbroken for 47 years, until a resurgent interest in marathon swimming during the 2010s led to several new attempts. Erikson will celebrate the anniversary of his historic swim on 63rd Street Beach in Chicago at 10 a.m. August 22, 2021. He will be joined by the Point Swimmers of Hyde Park, as well as swimmers from other organizations. Members of the press are invited to attend.
ABOUT TED ERIKSON: In addition to his first harrowing swim across Lake Michigan, Ted Erikson also made additional 50-mile and 60-mile swims across the lake in additional Moran-sponsored races, placing second to two of the greatest swimmers in the world at that time, 94-year-old Olympian Greta Anderson, his training partner and friend, and Abdel Latif Abu-Heif, the “Crocodile of the Nile.” He completed a total of 31 professional swim marathons.
Ted Erikson also:
• Trained his black Labrador Umbra to swim, getting her into the Guinness Book of World Records after she placed 40th in the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim in Istanbul.
• Tragically lost his son Jon, another world-record holding marathon swimmer who broke all his father’s records, to a sudden infection in 2014.
• Underwent major heart surgery to prevent abdominal aortic aneurysm and restored his strength by purchasing a tricycle and getting into online dating.
• Survived being isolated alone in his apartment during the COVID-19 lockdown by having nightly Zoom chats with his sweetheart, 94-year-old Beulah Brooks.
• Keeps himself busy as a former research chemist by reading and doing scientific equations related to panpsychism, a concept explored in Phillip Goff’s Galileo’s Error.
• Managed on his 91st birthday to place first in his age class in swim meets and takes the occasional dip in Lake Michigan, as shown in summer 2020.