Erikson started marathon swimming at the age of 33 in 1961 when he became the first person to swim across Lake Michigan in the USA. He swam from England to France in 12 hours 25 minutes in 1964. His career peaked in 1965 with a record double crossing of the English Channel in 30 hours and 3 minutes on his third attempt. His record stood for 10 years until it was broken by his son, Jon. Erikson holds a B.S. ChE ('52) and an M.S. Chem ('59) from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Gas-Surface Interaction diploma (’65) from MIT. He spent 23 years at the IIT Research Institute as a Senior Chemist resulting in 2 patents and 9 publications followed by 16 years teaching chemistry, math, and physics in public schools. Water interests evolved from Montana droughts, U.S. Submarine service, record marathon swims and continues in senior swimming events.
World Record in the Farallon Islands
Erikson holds the record for swimming 50.6K (31.5 statue miles) in 14 hours 38 minutes from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA across frigid shark-infested waters in 1967 on his third attempt.
This ~31-mile course is renowned to be one of the two most difficult, coldest, most perilous marathon swims in the world. Water temperatures can range from 49°F (10°C) to 55.4°F (13°C), but temperatures have been recorded lower on several occasions. The water conditions are usually extremely rough with cresting ocean swells up to 20 feet. Currents and tides often exceed the speed of the fastest swimmers. It is a swim not lightly attempted.
On his first attempt in 1966 he went completely hypothermic and was reported "dead". He was revived, started life anew and failed again on his second attempt. He said he waited a year this time, brought the man upstairs along, and success.
Erikson completed his swim on September 17th 1967 in 14:38 by swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge, covering 26.4 nautical miles. This is now the official start and finish line according to the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation.
Erikson is very much alive in Chicago, where he is affiliated with the Promontory Point Open Water Swimmers. His personal website is here. He is a little hard of hearing so emails are much preferred. He is most open and cordial in sharing a wide variety of valuable information.
Erikson's latest interview is here.
Video of 1967 Farallon Islands Swim
- Farallon Islands Swimming Federation
- Interview with Ted Erikson and Vito Bialla
- International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame website
- Open Water Swimming website
- Updated 24-Hour Club
- To Seek Unknown Shores
- Where Chance Is Supreme
- Seeking Unknown Shores
- Seeking Unknown Shores With Ted Erikson
- Round And Round They Swam 24 Hours In 15°C
- Jon Erikson's Thoughts 3 Decades Later On The 3-way
- Swimming Across Lake Michigan And Watching History
- Ted Erikson, The Thinking Swimmer
- A Flashback TO A Cold Water Marathon Swim
- Abou Heif's Legacy And Leadership
- Longest Marathon Swims In The World
- 1967 Still Stands From The Farallon Islands
- Greta Andersen Looks Back On Her Career
- The Only Two People In History To Do The Farallon Islands
- Einstein With Swim Goggles
- Sayings From The Open Water Swimming World
- Jammin' Fast In The Open Water