Martin Strel

There are numerous ways to make an effort to ensure that your favorite river stays clean and safe from harm. You could donate a few bucks, pick up some litter on a weekend, or plant a tree.

But would you strap on a wetsuit and flippers and swim it…the whole thing?

What if the river in question was the Mississippi, the Danube, or the Amazon?You’d probably stick to litter collecting or tree planting unless you were Marin Strel.

The 56-year-old Strel most recently swam the entire length of the Amazon River, battling parasites, intense sun, bull sharks and exhaustion while sleeping five hours per night and swimming an average 52 miles per day in 2007.

The swim, while amazing, was not without precedent for Strel. He swam more than 3,000 kilometers on the Danube in 2000 then 3,979 kilometers on the Mississippi in 2002.

By those standards, his next swim should be a walk in the par…err..splash in the tub. Strel plans to swim the full length of the 1,450-mile Colorado River, including the stretch through the Grand Canyon.

“This time I wanted to tackle a demanding clean, fresh water stream over a shorter distance,” Strel said in an interview with the BBC on January 10.

The river’s notorious rapids pose a different challenge for Strel. “It is very, very dangerous because it is used for rafting not for swimming. They have terrible rapids which I’m hoping to avoid because I don’t want to die in Colorado,” Strel said.

So what is at the heart of these barely believable swimming spectacles? Strel says he swims the rivers to ensure future protection for them. “The goal is to show people how important it is to save such fresh, clean rivers which should stay alive and be part of our environment,” Strel says.

Along with an intense training regimen, Strel credits his regular consumption of a special kind of red wine for his success. His limit, however, is two bottles per day.

So, is Strel and underwater Evil Knievel or a genuine conservation superhero?

[Photo courtesy]