Des Renford

From Openwaterpedia
Des Renford is a dual inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 1978 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Class of 2016
Des Renford is a member of the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Class of 2020
Des Renford after surgery
Des Renford Autobiography, Nothing Great Is Easy
Des Renford Aquatics Centre

Desmond Robert Renford, MBE, OAM, OHS (25 August 1927 – 30 December 1999) was an Australian marathon swimmer. He was also a lifeguard, a butcher, a barkeeper, a bookmaker, a film producer, a channel swimmer, an author, and a minor local politician during his career.


Publishing Career

He authored a well-regarded autobiography, titled Des Renford Nothing Great Is Easy, that included numerous stories of his experiences around the world, centered around his marathon swimming career. Renford also produced five movies including the sports documentary 'King of the Channel' (1976), which won a Logie award.

Channel Swimming Career

King of the Channel Film

Renford was one of the featured swimmers, along with Kevin Murphy, of the 30-minute documentary film King of the Channel about the triology of match races in Sydney Harbour, the English Channel and Loch Ness in 1977.


  • Renford was born on the 52nd anniversary of the very first English Channel swim, achieved in 1875 by Matthew Webb.
  • He took up marathon swimming at the age of 39. His English Channel crossings included three in 10 days in 1980.
  • In 1977 he broke the record for swimming around Alcatraz Island by 23 minutes.
  • He was a mentor to Susie Maroney, and led her on her first Channel crossing when she was 15.
  • In the Queen's Birthday Honours of 12 June 1976, Renford was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
  • He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • He is a member of the 24-hour club.
  • He wrote Nothing Great Is Easy, a book co-authored with Ian Heads. The soft cover book is an engaging autobiography.
  • The former Heffron Park Pool was renamed in Des Renford's honour on 1 March 2000 as the Des Renford Aquatic Centre.

He is the first person to complete The Big Swim, a 34 km marathon swim in Tasmania, Australia in 1976.

  • He became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1976, received the Order of the Insignia of the Holy Cross (OHC), a papal knighthood from His Holiness, Pope John Paul II in July 1990.
  • He was a Papal knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (the letters OHS sometimes appear after his name).
  • In December 1974, he swam 90 km from Sydney to Wollongong, Australia partly in a shark cage in 27 hours 30 minutes 42 seconds.
  • He used a shark cage during his 134 km solo swim attempt from Newcastle to Sydney in Australia when he was in the water for 13 hours before a storm sank his shark-proof cage off Terrigal in 1981.


He suffered three heart attacks and a stroke, and had undergone heart surgery. He had a fourth heart attack while swimming in 1999. He went into a coma, was admitted to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, and died there the following evening. His wife Patie, whom he married in 1945, and their three sons were at his bedside when he died.

List of Kings of the Channel®

King of the Channel® - Letona Trophy Number of Crossings Years Held Title
Captain Matthew Webb 1 1875-1934
Edward Temme 2 1934-1951
William Barnie 3 1951-1960
Brojen Das 4-6 1960-1974
Melvyn Sharp 7 1974-1975
Des Renford 8-16 1975-1979
Michael Read 17-18 1979-1980
Des Renford 19 1980
Michael Read 20-31 1980-2000
Kevin Murphy 32 2000-2004
Michael Read 33 2004-2006
Kevin Murphy 34 2006-

This Is Your Life

together with Kevin Murphy and other legends of the English Channel community

Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Honourees

He is a member of the inaugural class of Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame honourees who were inducted on August 2020.

External links