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Lewis Gordon Pugh

An environmental campaigner and swimmer who combines his love of challenge and adventure with raising awareness about the condition of the world's most vulnerable habitats

Best known for his work highlighting the plight of deteriorating aquatic ecosystems through endurance swimming, Lewis Gordon Pugh is an environmental campaigner with a difference. Realising that the loss of sea and glacial ice, marine pollution and habitat destruction will have an impact not just on nearby people and animals, but on people the world over, Pugh decided to take action. His quests have seen him swim long distances in every ocean, as well as in one of Everest's glacial lakes. Not afraid to voice his opinions, hopes and dreams, Pugh is aware that a sense of purpose is essential to conquering what seems impossible. He aims to help his dream of clean oceans thriving with life come true, for our benefit and for the benefit of future generations.
  • Ocean advocate
  • Explorer and Swimmer
  • First person to swim 1km at the North Pole
  • Author of the bestselling book 'Achieving the Impossible : A Fearless Leader, A Fragile Earth'
  • Exceptional inspirational speaker who has addressed business and political leaders
  • Topics covered include Achieving the Impossible, Vision, Goal setting, Planning and Preparation, Motivation, Inspiration, Leadership, Teamwork, Power of the mind, Self-belief, Overcoming obstacles and setbacks, Risk, Protecting the environment, Change, Excellence
Speaking Style:  A passionate and honest speaker, Pugh's inspirational speeches have met with widespread acclaim. A video recording of him speaking about leadership at Business Innovation Factory's (BIF) annual conference has been voted one of the 'Seven Most inspiring Videos on the Web' and he has helped motivate management teams from Coca-Cola and Lloyds insurance to find ways to implement their 'greener' future plans.

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In 2007 Lewis Gordon Pugh became the first person to undertake a long distance swim at the North Pole. Swimming in waters at a temperature of -1.7 C, he defied the conditions to achieve the distance of one kilometre in 18 minutes and 50 seconds. The purpose of the amazing feat was to draw attention to some shocking information in the years running up to the swim, 23% of the Arctic ice had melted. The public needed to be made aware, and what better way than by achieving something which had never been achieved before With the help and encouragement of a dedicated team, history was made.

In 2010, his swim in Lake Pumori (a lake 5,200 metres up Mount Everest) drew attention to the fact that glaciers, which are an essential source of fresh water in many regions, are at risk due to climate change.

This way of thinking is typical of Pugh; he has also set himself numerous similar challenges swimming both at sea and in internal waters. In 2006, he became the first person to swim in all five oceans. His endurance swimming feats are listed below:

Arctic Ocean

  • 2003 North Cape, Norway. Distance - 5 km. Time - 1 hour 4 minutes
  • 2005 Magdalenefjord, Spitsbergen. Distance - 1km. Time - 21 minutes 30 seconds
  • 2005 Verlegenhuken, Spitsbergen: Distance - 1km. Time - 20 minutes 30 seconds
  • 2007 North Pole. Distance - 1km. Time - 18 minutes 50 seconds
Atlantic Ocean
  • 1987 Robben Island, South Africa: Distance - 7km. Time - 3 hours 00 minutes
  • 1992 English Channel. Distance - 35km. Time - 14 hours 50 minutes
  • 1993 Dassen Island to Ysterfontein. Distance - 10 km. Time - 2 hours 35 minutes
  • 2004 Cape of Good Hope. Distance - 12km. Time - 3 hours 15 minutes
  • 2004 Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Distance - 12km. Time - 37 hours (over 13 days)
  • 2004 Around Robben Island. Distance - 10 km. Time - 3 hours 42 minutes
  • 2004 Sognefjord, Norway. Distance - 204kms. Time - 21 days
Indian Ocean
  • 1994 Cape Agulhas, South Africa. Distance - 10km. Time - 4 hours 15 minutes
  • 2006 Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. Distance - 16km. Time - 4 hours 57 minutes
  • 2007 Maldive Islands. Distance - 140km. Time - 10 days
Pacific Ocean
  • 2006 Sydney Heads, Australia. Distance - 16km. Time - 6 hours 1 minute
  • 2005 Petermann Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Distance - 1 km. Time - 18 minutes
  • 2005 Deception Island, South Shetland Islands. Distance - 1 mile. Time - 30 minutes 30 seconds
Internal Waters
  • 1992 Lake Malawi, Malawi. Distance - 25km. Time - 9 hours 52 minutes
  • 2006 World Winter Swimming Championships, Oulo, Finland. Distance - 500metres
  • 2006 River Thames, England. Distance - 350km. Time - 21 days
  • 2010 Mount Everest, Nepal. Time - 22 minutes 51 seconds
Always an avid fan of adventure stories whilst growing up, Pugh was also academically capable. His family moved from Devon to Cape Town, South Africa when he was a child, and he studied Law and Politics at The University of Cape Town before attending Cambridge Universitys Jesus College to read International Law. Despite successfully working as a maritime lawyer in London, Pugh felt that he did not want to spend all of his career in the city. A position in the British Special Air Service as a reservist also did not satisfy his craving for adventure. Having always enjoyed swimming, Pugh had already participated in some long distance challenges and decided that he wanted to try more. These swims would not just be for his own enjoyment, however he would work as part of a team dedicated to raising awareness of environmental issues facing wildlife and humankind all over the globe. In order to devote more of his time to campaigning, he left his role as a maritime lawyer in 2003.

Pugh has used his inner drive and sense of purpose to inspire others, becoming a highly successful motivational speaker. In this role he has worked with some of the worlds best known companies, including Coca-Cola, Mercedes, Nestle and BMW and has spoken at two TED Global Conferences. His desire to help companies and countries across the world improve their environmental credentials is evident and he is able to convey the urgency of action in a friendly, encouraging way, utilising his numerous experiences with nature to highlight its beauty and fragility.

His environmental campaigning is ongoing and in 2011, he was responsible for a campaign to protect a valuable ecosystem in Africa from a development proposed by an oil company. The media storm created saw the development prohibited. Pugh has also been outspoken about a number of other environmental issues and disasters and has appeared in the media numerous times, interviewed by the BBC, CNN, National Geographic and Sky News to name just a few.

Positions and honours

  • Freedom of the City of London (2006)
  • Sports Adventurer of the Year Award, French Sports Academy (2007)
  • Fellow of the Explorers Club, New York (2007)
  • Paul Harris Fellowship Award, Rotary International (2007)
  • Out There Adventurer of the Year (2008)
  • Best Project for the Environment, Beyond Sport Awards (2009)
  • Order of Ikhamanga (Gold Class), South Africa (2009)
  • Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum (2010)
  • President's Award, International Swimming Hall of Fame (2011)
  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London (2011)
  • Honorary Fellow, Royal Scottish Geographical Society (2013)
  • Inducted into International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) (2013)
Praise for Lewis Pugh

Lewis Pugh doesnt tell us what to do, he shows us what can be done.

Bill Clinton

riveting and passionate. Hes stunning!

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

a brave and courageous leader who adds a fresh perspective to climate change.

Al Gore

Not many people can speak to a group of world leaders like (Pugh) did - with so much authority and passion. I could have heard a pin drop.

Ted Turner, Founder of CNN

the perfect TED talk: a little bit of action, some thinking outside the box, humbling words on the need to respect nature, a happy ending. A Hollywood scriptwriter could not have structured it better.

The Financial Times


  • Teamwork
  • Change Management
  • Vision & Goal setting
  • Planning & Preparation
  • Protection of environment
  • Power of the mind
  • Overcoming obstacles & Setbacks


  • English


  • Achieving the Impossible: A Fearless Leader, A Fragile Earth (2010)


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