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Jabez Wolffe

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Jabez Wolffe, inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 1968
Jabez Wolffe with South African swimmer Patricia Retief in 1930 before her English Channel attempt. Photo by E.F. Corcoran.
Textbook of Swimming by Jabez Wolffe

Jabez "Jappy" Wolffe (ca. 1877 - 22 October 1943) attempted to swim the English Channel from 1906 to 1913 in 22 attempts. He was considered to be one of the best open water swimmers of the first decade of the 20th century. The British swimmer's successful marathon swims included the 24-mile swim from Brighton to Worthing and back (24 miles), Margaret to Herne Bay and back (34 miles), Southsea to Ryde and back, Eddystone Lighthouse to Plymouth Pier, Dover to Ramsgate.

English Channel Career[edit]

His closest attempt to success in the English Channel was in 1911 which reportedly failed by yards. On three other occasions, he was within a mile of completion. Wolffe used mostly breaststroke occasionally incorporating the overarm side stroke during his English Channel attempts. He failed once by only yards in an attempt made in 1911 and by less than a mile on three other occasions. Many times it was due to pilot error and starting off on the wrong tide.

Coaching Career[edit]

Wolffe was the coach of three successful English Channel swimmers including Margaret Duncan, the first South African woman to swim across the English Channel in 1930.

Unsuccessful as a channel swimmer, he can claim credit to being one of the first coaches of English Channel swimmers. His successes included the best women of his era including Hilda Sharp (1928), Margaret Duncan (1930) and Sunny Lowry (1933). He also was the trainer of Gertrude Ederle's first English Channel swim in 1925. He disqualified Ederle when he asked another swimmer, Ishak Helmy, to recover her from the water.

Open Water Swimming Career[edit]

  • He was the record holder for 10 marathon sea records including:
    • Brighton to Worthing and back (24 miles)
    • Margate to Herne Bay and back (34 miles in 9 hours 39 minutes)
    • Southsea to Ryde and back
    • Eddystone Lighthouse to Plymouth Pier
    • Dover to Ramsgate
  • Not only was he an accomplished swimmer, he was also an accomplished walker, cyclist and rower, once covering five and one-quarter miles of each specialty in a total time of 3 hours 40 minutes, the beginning of the first triathlon.
  • He wrote the Text Book of Swimming, published by Athletic Publications of London.

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame[edit]

Wolffe was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 1968 as an Honor Swimmer.

Publications[edit]

Wolffe was the author of several books on swimming, including Textbook of Swimming, 96 pages with photographs and illustrations (c. 1914); Swimming Short and Long Distances, Crawl Stroke and Diving (c. 1915) and Swimming, Short and Long Distances, Springboard Diving (c. 1915).

Greatest Watermen in Open Water Swimming History[edit]

Wolffe was named as one of the Greatest Watermen in Open Water Swimming History by the World Open Water Swimming Association in 2015:

1. Zacharias Alexandrakis (Macedonia): Marathon swimming enthusiast, open water swimming promoter, lifeguard, swimming coach and lifesaving leader.
2. Antonio Argüelles Díaz-González (Mexico): Triathlete, ultra-endurance athlete, channel swimmer and author
3. Stathis Avramidis, Ph.D. (Greece): Researcher, swimmer, author, speaker, and lecturer
4. Peter Bales (South Africa): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, governing body administrator and escort pilot
5. Vito Bialla (U.S.A.): Extreme relay swimmer, professional sailor, and escort pilot of the Farallon Islands, California
6. Paul Blackbeard (South Africa): World-class pool swimmer, ocean swimmer, and life saver
7. Lord Byron (Great Britain): Poet, author and pioneering sea swimmer
8. Dick Campion (Australia): Olympian, coach, trainer, author, promoter, and professional marathon swimmer
9. Daniel Eulogio Carpio Massioti (Peru): Four-time Olympian, Channel swimmer, professional racer, and solo swimmer
10. Bruckner Chase (U.S.A.): marathon swimmer, ocean advocate, ambassador to the disabled, filmmaker, paddler and surf lifesaver
11. Buster Crabbe (U.S.A.): Olympic champion, ice swimmer, promoter, and movie star of 3 pulp fiction heroes
12. Guy Delage (France): Ocean swimmer, extreme adventurer, diver, submariner, and sailor
13. Marcos Díaz (Dominican Republic): Marathon racer, extreme swimmer, surfer, governing body administrator, and event director
14. Shannon Eckstein (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer
15. Ian Emberson (Kauai, U.S.A.): Channel swimmer, original Ironman triathlete, ocean swimmer, event director, and triathlete
16. George Freeth (Hawai, U.S.A.): Ocean swimmer, surfer, paddler, and lifesaver organizer
17. Alfréd Hajós (Hungary): Olympic champion, professional racer, and architect
18. Trevor Hendy (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer
19. Colin Hill (Great Britain): Ice swimmer, Channel swimmer, television commentator, and event director
20. Craig Hummer (U.S.A.): Competitive swimmer, kayaker, paddler, Ironman lifesaver, and Olympic television commentator
21. Ky Hurst (Australia): Ocean swimmer, two-time Olympian, body surfer extraordinaire, and champion life saver
22. Zhang Jian (China): Marathon swimmer, Channel swimmer, ice swimmer and university sports director
23. Captain Tim Johnson (U.S.A.): Marathon swimmer, author, professor, shark cage designer, analyst, and historian
24. Duke Kahanamoku (Hawaii): Ocean swimmer, Olympic champion, surfing legend and ambassador of aloha
25. Grant Kenny (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer
26. Guy Leech (Australia): Ironman lifesaver, paddler, kayaker, surf skier and ocean swimmer
27. Luiz Eduardo Carneiro da Silva de Souza Lima (Brazil): Two-time Olympian, stand-up paddler, ocean swimming coach, pioneering ocean swimmer and promoter
28. Pádraig Mallon (Ireland): Marathon swimmer, Channel swimmer, ice swimmer, event organizer, promoter and triathlete
29. Vojislav Mijić (Serbia): Marathon swimmer, professional racer, solo pioneer and event organizer
30. Masayuki Moriya (Japan): Coach, channel swimmer, event organizer, clinician, and governing body administrator
31. Keo Nakama (Hawaii/U.S.A.): World champion, world record holder, pioneering ocean swimmer, event organizer and coach
32. Aaron Peirsol (U.S.A.): 7-time Olympic medalist, surfer, lifeguard, coach, and body surfer extraordinaire
33. Lewis Pugh (Great Britain): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, ocean advocate, ambassador, author, and speaker
34. Kevin Richards (South Africa): Competitive swimmer, triathlete, surf lifesaver, and coach
35. Philip Rush (New Zealand): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, professional racer, escort pilot, channel administrator, and fire fighter
36. Wayne Riddin (South Africa): Competitive swimmer, race director, aquapreneur, coach and promoter
37. Veljko Rogošić (Croatia): Two-time Olympic swimmer, professional racer, solo pioneer, swimming ambassador and marathon swimmer
38. Kenny Rust (Hawaii, U.S.A.): Ocean swimmer, lifeguard, aquapreneur, and event safety official
39. Ori Sela (Israel): Sea swimmer, coach, therapist, pioneer relay swimmer and aquapreneur
40. Borut Strel (Slovenia): Coach, swimmer, clinician, planner and logistic expert
41. Martin Strel (Slovenia): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, extreme adventurer, film protagonist, and camp clinician
42. Georgios-Ioannis Tsianos, M.D., Ph.D. (Greece): Research scientist, physician, expedition medic and Channel swimmer
43. Christof Wandratsch (Germany): Channel swimmer, professional racer, solo pioneer, ice swimming record holder and event promoter
44. Captain Matthew Webb (Great Britain): Channel swimmer, extreme adventurer, and professional racer
45. Johnny Weissmuller (U.S.A.): 4-time Olympic champion and movie star with a household name
46. Alick Wickham (Solomon Islands): Ocean swimmer, high diver, body surfing promoter, surfboard shaper, and freestyle ambassador
47. Patrick Winkler (Brazil): Competitive swimmer, ocean swimmer, stand-up paddler, race promoter and publisher of The Swim Channel Magazine
48. Jabez Wolffe (Great Britain): Channel aspirant and coach in the early generations of channel swimming
49. Doug Woodring (Hong Kong/U.S.A.): Marine environment ambassador, ecology advocate, aquapreneur, ocean event director, paddler, diver, and ocean swimmer
50. David Yudovin (U.S.A.): Channel swimmer, marathon swimmer, aquapreneur, benefactor and mariner

External links[edit]