Big River Man

Slovenian free-spirit, Martin Strel, is out to save the world's water - one big swim at a time.
Hero strell header

Jun 23, 2014 | By Nicholas Pell

Some of the most bad ass dudes out there are from what used to be Yugoslavia. Add another to their number: Slovene Martin Strel, informally known as Big River Man. This is a guy who skipped swimming the Nile because he didn't think it was challenging enough; He called it "just a small creek."

He has, however, found time to break his own Guinness records for swimming the Danube (where he set the world record for distance swam in 58 days, the first person to do so), Mississippi (68 days, breaking the record he set for swimming the Danube), Yangtze (40 days, putting him one day ahead of schedule and breaking the Mississippi record) and Amazon rivers (66 days, breaking his Yangtze record by effectively swimming across the Atlantic Ocean). With regard to the latter, support boats were ready to dump blood into the river to keep carnivorous fish like piranha off of him. 

It was in 1994 that he set his first world record for long-distance swimming. Three years later he became the first person to swim from Africa to Europe, after seven failed attempts. It's not just about setting records: It's about doing things that have hitherto been deemed impossible -- then doing them all over again. 

As if all of this weren't awesome enough, Strel isn't just doing it to show the world what an amazing swimming he is. He does it to raise awareness about the environment, as well as to affirm his commitment to world peace. 

When he swims a river, it's not just about swimming from sunup until sundown; It's about stopping along the way, meeting the people and trying to be an inspiration to everyone he meets along the way, while also trying to show the world about the specific challenges the river regions are facing. 

Watch Big River Man, the documentary made on him for the full story: This is a guy who drinks two bottles of wine a day, sips on whisky while he swims, chows down on horse burgers and basically loses his entire mind as he makes his way up river. You'll quickly understand why he's a true hero for the children and the most famous man in Slovenia.

Images ©: 1, 2, 3, 6. Bryce Duffy Photography; 4. Strel-Swimming; 5. Radio Netherlands Worldwide; 7. L.O.S.T. Swimming.