Ted Erikson

From Openwaterpedia
Ted Erikson before the 1963 Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swim. Courtesy of the Tribune Newspaper
Ted Erikson in the water at the 1961 Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swims, with his wife, Loretta sits in the boat rowed by lifeguard Dick Shiman. Courtesy of the Tribune Newspaper
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 in 2017 swimming at Lakefront Point wearing Jon Erikson memorial cap. Photo by David Travis

Ted Erikson (born 17 February 1928, died 1 December 2021) was a 93-year-old American chemist and open water swimmer who was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1978 for his exploits in waters ranging from the English Channel to the Farallon Islands. He is a scientist by profession. He is also the father and coach of Jon Erikson, also an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

Professional Career

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.


Open Water Swimming Career Highlights

  • He started marathon swimming at the age of 33 on 22 August 1961 when he became the first person to swim 50 km across Lake Michigan from Chicago to Michigan City in the USA.
  • He swam from England to France in 12 hours 25 minutes in 1964 in a two-way crossing attempt that was aborted after 23 hours on the second leg.
  • He set a record in 1965 by completing a double crossing of the English Channel in 30 hours 3 minutes on his third two-way attempt. His record stood for 10 years until it was broken by his son, Jon Erikson.
  • He set a record for swimming 50.6 km (31.5 miles) in 14 hours 35 minutes from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA in 1967 on his third attempt.
  • He competed in eight professional marathon swims in Lake Michigan, Atlantic City, the Lac La Tuque 24-hour relay with Dennis Matuch in Canada and the Traversée internationale du lac Memphrémagog in Canada.
  • His Lake Michigan swims included a 59 km (36.75-mile) swim from Chicago, Illinois to Michigan City, Indiana, USA in 1961 in 36 hours 37 minutes, a 80.4 km (50-mile) swim from Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA in 35 hours 37 minutes in 1962, and a 96.5 km (60-mile) Jim Moran Lake Michigan Swim from Chicago to St. Joseph, Michigan, USA in 37 hours 25 minutes in 1963 where he completed one of the great moves of open water swimming history.
  • He guided four protégés across the English Channel.
  • He completed a 19 km (12-mile) Chain o’ Lakes swim from Winter Haven, Florida to Cypress Gardens in 1961.
  • He served as an advisor to the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation that 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 of the Farallon Islands in 1966, he went hypothermic and was reported dead.
  • He was revived, started life anew, and failed again on his second attempt of the Farallon Islands. He said he waited a year this time, brought the man upstairs along, and succeeded.
  • He completed his of the Farallon Islands swim on 17 September 1967 in 14 hours 38 minutes 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 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.
  • His latest interview is here.

Video of 1967 Farallon Islands Swim

Advice from Illinois Tech Greats

Open Water Wednesday Interview

MSF Calendar

Erikson was featured in the March photograph in the annual MSF Calendar of 2015.

January: Anthony McCarley, English Channel. Photo by Roger Taylor.
February: Santa Barbara Channel. Photo by Theo Schmeeckle.
March: Ted Erikson at Promontory Point, Chicago. Photo by Louise LeBourgeois.
April: Sarah Thomas at The Arc, USA. Photo by Ken Classen.
May: Underway at Lake Willoughby, USA. Photo by Phil White.
June: Grace van der Byl at MIMS 2014, USA. Photo by John Humenik.
July: Navigation, Lake Pend Oreille, USA. Photo by Andrew Malinak.
August: Suva off Cap Gris Nez, English Channel. Photo by Zoe Sadler.
September: Applegate Lake 10K Start, USA. Photo by Peter Ray.
October: Bethany Bosch & Guri at Lake Willoughby. Photo by Phil White.
November: Round Christiansborg, Denmark. Photo by Samuel Tyson.
December: Nightswimming, Ireland. Photo by Donal Buckley.

World's 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Men

He was named one of the World's 50 Most Adventurous Open Water Men in 2015 by the World Open Water Swimming Association.

External links