Ted Erikson

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Ted Erikson and Vito Bialla talking about the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation
Farallon Islands Course
Ted Erikson swimming at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Photo by Michael Goss
Ted Erikson is an American open water swimmer who was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Swimmer in 1978 for his exploits in waters ranging from the English Channel to the Farallon Islands. Erikson is a member of the 24-hour club and a scientist by profession. He is also the father and coach of Jon Erikson, also an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.



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.

Erikson is an advisor to the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation which governs all solo and relay swims of the channel between the Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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.

Online Information

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

External links

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