Man, 53, swims length of Hudson River: ‘I’ve been dreaming about this’


That’s one way to travel the Empire State.

An endurance swimmer, 53, successfully traversed the Hudson River, 315 miles from the Adirondack Mountains to Battery Park, in one month.

United Nations’ official Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh, completed the sometimes-perilous trek Wednesday and succinctly told The Post, “It’s really great to be back on land again.”

“I’ve been in this river now for a month. I’ve gotten to know her intimately… It feels like I’ve made a lifelong friend in this river,” he declared.

His purpose for the trip, which began Aug. 13, is to raise awareness of the importance of rivers to ecosystems. Pugh, a native of England, will be delivering that message to the UN come Monday.


Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh swam the entire Hudson River in a month's time.
Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh swam the entire Hudson River in a month’s time.
AP

He aimed to spend 5 miles in the water in the morning and another 5 a night, as the Hudson was often blissfully still after the sun went down.

He spent over a year planning and training — not just swimming, but running and kayaking too — in anticipation of brutal waters and exhaustion.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for many years, but it’s been worth the wait,” he gushed.

While in the mountains of upstate, Pugh and his team — a kayaker and small boat used in wider areas of the river more downstate accompanied him for safety — would either camp or find Airbnbs to stay in overnight.

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After they reached Albany, and the Hudson widened, the team began sleeping on a catamaran boat between swims.

Diving in head first


Pugh described his lengthy swim as an incredibly rewarding one.
Pugh described his lengthy swim as an incredibly rewarding one.
AP

Pugh began his journey by plunging into Essex County’s Lake Tear of the Clouds and following the Hudson and waterways connected to the river southbound.

It was that initial phase of his month aquatic that he found to be the most treacherous.

“The reason why it’s challenging is because you’ve got lots of rocks and branches in the river. If you hit one of those, it’s a high-consequence environment,” Pugh explained.

“You don’t have any brakes, you’re moving so fast, and then there are rocks in front of you and what we call sleepers. These are just below the surface of the water.”

The well-conditioned athlete, who previously swam the frigid waters of the North Pole, even had moments where he wondered what he’d gotten himself into.

Though, as Pugh pushed on, he got a nice boost of tides from the extremely rare blue supermoon at the end of August.


Pugh kept a safety kayaker nearby as he swam.
Pugh kept a safety kayaker nearby as he swam.
AP

“It was just very, very peaceful and beautiful with so little lights along the river. So the heavens were so
enormous,” he shared.

Though, when that moon began waning, it meant more rough waters, he recalled.

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“We got to Albany and the river widened, actually became quite sluggish. We frequently had a wind coming up the river, and then the currents, the tide was going down,” he recounted.

“So you would have this nasty chop in your face for hour after hour after hour…it was really tiring in the shoulders and in the head and in the neck.”

Yet, as the gaze of the world’s greatest skyline grew closer and closer each day, Pugh’s morale was constantly uplifted by onlookers and supporters as he passed numerous waterfront nabes — especially Marist College in Poughkeepsie.


A detailed map shows Pugh's route towards NYC.
A detailed map shows Pugh’s route towards NYC.
Lewis Pugh Foundation

“The swim team, the water polo team, and the rowing team all joined me in river, even the president of the college and his wife swam with me,” Pugh said.

“Countless people from across all demographic groups and all ages came up to me. They said, ‘We love this river, this river matters to us, and thank you so much for shining a light here.’”

Finally, he reached the five boroughs and couldn’t contain himself while swimming beneath the George Washington Bridge.


Lewis Pugh was more than happy to reach dry land after his month in the Hudson.
Pugh was more than happy to reach dry land after his month in the Hudson.
AFP via Getty Images

“In the far distance, I could see the Statue of Liberty, and all I could think was that the Statue of Liberty has welcomed people to New York for so many years,” Pugh said, commending the condition of the Hudson River and how its upkeep is an inspiration for the worldwide preservation of rivers.

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“I think we’ve got a lot to learn from New Yorkers,” he added shortly after drying off on Manhattan’s southern tip.



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