Lewis Pugh


Lewis Pugh might be British by birth and an international legend for his open water swimming exploits - but he has strong South African roots.

He grew up in Cape Town, where he attended camps Bay High, and only started swimming at age 17. He is married to an Afrikaans girl called Antoinette Malherbe, whom he met at school in Camps Bay, and studied law at University of Cape Town, where he is also an Associate Professor. 

Click here to see the Lewis Pugh website and follow this link to read his wikipedia entry


Lewis Pugh with international swimming star Penny Heyns and four times Dusi canoe marathon champion Ant Stott. In 2011 Lewis joined Princess Charlene Wittsock, her husband Prince Ablbert and other notables in swimming the Midmar Mile. Lewis Pugh seen below at the Midmar mile with German Olympic swimmer Franziska van Almsick 

Lewis paddling a surf ski in Namibia in 2013.

In August 2018 Lewis swam the length of the English Channel. 
I’m so happy that my wife, Antoinette, has come to support me.

Antoinette Pugh: Die vrou agter avonturier Lewis Pugh

Antoinette en Lewis Pugh was saam op skool. Jare later het hulle mekaar weer raakgeloop en die liefde het geblom. Lewis, ook bekend as die menslike ysbeer, is onder meer die eerste mens wat in 2007 ’n kilometer in die Noordpool se yswater van -1,7 °C geswem het.

Twintig jaar ná skool het Antoinette haar motor in Kloofstraat in Kaapstad parkeer. Toe sy opkyk, het sy Lewis buite ’n wegneemete-restaurant gesien. “Op daardie oomblik het hy geroep ‘Malherbe!’, my nooiensvan. Die eerste ding wat my aandag getrek het, was sy mooi blougrys oë,” vertel Antoinette.

Hulle is drie jaar later, in 2009, getroud. Antoinette was voorheen getroud en het ’n dogter, Taegyn, en ’n seun, Finn.   

Antoinette en Lewis deel baie belangstellings, soos oefening en die buitelewe. “Hy is net so lief vir diere soos ek, veral honde.” Maar die eienskap wat haar die meeste aantrek, is dat hy opkom vir dit waarin hy glo, soos sy omgewingsveldtogte. “Sy droom is om groot nasionale parke in die oseaan te skep om die seelewe te beskerm.” Met elke “bomenslike” avontuur wil Lewis die wêreld se aandag vestig op die broosheid van die planeet.  

Daar is tye dat sy Lewis maar min sien omdat hy onder meer gereeld toesprake oor die wêreld heen gee, vertel Antoinette, ’n vryskut-grimeerkunstenaar. “Gelukkig het ek twee kinders, twee honde en my werk wat my besig hou.”

Wanneer Lewis nie reis nie, werk hy van die huis af. “Dan haal ons in met wat in elkeen se lewe aangaan.”

Die feit dat hy nooit afskakel nie, is een van die grootste uitdagings van hul verhouding. “Daar maal heeltyd idees in sy kop. Hy werk oor naweke, na-ure . . .

Wanneer hy vir ’n reis voorberei, is hy baie gefokus. Hy moet hard oefen, baie beplan en borge vaspen. Sy span bestaan uit plaaslike en internasionale mense en hy maak dikwels belangrike oproepe in die nag. Hy sal sommer drie-uur in die oggend wakker word met ’n idee en dan in sy studeerkamer gaan sit en werk, sy Jack Russell agterna, totdat ek opstaan.”

Lewis is in Engeland gebore en het as tienjarige saam met sy ouers na Suid-Afrika verhuis. Hy bly nou ses maande van die jaar in Engeland en die res van die tyd hier. “Soms gaan ek saam Engeland toe,” sê Antoinette. “Maar ek bly meestal by ons huis in Kaapstad. Ek het baie verantwoordelikhede hier.

“Ek was lank ’n enkelma, so ek is gewoond daaraan om baie dinge op my eie te hanteer. Lewis se Everest-ekspedisie in 2010 het ons albei egter getoets . . .”

Antoinette was vier maande swanger toe Lewis een kilometer oor die gletsermeer onder die kruin van Everest sou swem. Terwyl hy weg was, het sy ’n miskraam gehad. “Ek het nie geweet of ek hom dadelik moet vertel of eerder moet wag totdat hy terug is nie. Ek was bekommerd dat hy sou wou terugvlieg, maar ek het besluit om hom te vertel omdat hy ’n week gehad het om dit te verwerk voordat hy sou swem. Ek het geweet hy sou andersins aanvoel iets is verkeerd. Ek wou ook nie hê hy moes dit by iemand anders uitvind nie. Lewis was gebroke en wou dadelik huis toe kom. Ek het vir hom gesê dit gaan nie help nie, omdat hy niks aan die situasie kon doen nie. Ons probeer nou weer swanger raak en hopelik het ons vanjaar ’n baba Pugh.”

Tog sal sy nooit wil hê Lewis moet enigiets anders doen nie. “Ek het nog altyd vir hom gesê: ‘Jy moet doen wat jy moet doen.’ Ek bid elke aand dat hy veilig sal wees. Met sy Everest-ekspedisie het een van die fotograwe my gebel en gesê: ‘Lewis het pas ’n toets-swem gedoen en iets het skeefgeloop. Hy kan nie na die foon toe kom nie, want hy kan nie ordentlik asemhaal nie, maar hy wou net hê ek moet vir jou sê hy’s oukei.’ Ek het vir haar gesê: ‘Sê vir hom hy moet my nie weer bel totdat hy klaar geswem het nie. Hy het 49 mense wat hom ondersteun en ek is op my eie.’”

Sy gaan soms saam met Lewis na sy opleidingskampe. “Ek het al saam met hom van die mooiste plekke in die wêreld gesien. Voordat hy by die Noordpool gaan swem het, is ek saam Noorweë toe. Ek het nog nooit sulke koue beleef nie, en dit was somer daar!”

In die oggende het hy al halfses in ’n gletsermeer gaan kajak. “Terwyl hy geroei het, het ek langs hom gehardloop en tyd gehou. In die middae het hy geswem en dan het ek hom gemotiveer om aan te hou in die ysige water. Ná elke swemsessie moes hy vinnig in ’n warm stort ontdooi. Ek het hier my eerste gletser uitgeklim en ek was mal daaroor!

“Ek is seker Lewis gaan my nog baie ongelooflike plekke wys. Dis so lekker om saam met hom te reis omdat hy so baie weet van soveel lande. Een ding wat ek sonder twyfel kan sê, is dat my lewe nooit vervelig is nie!”

LEWIS: “Antoinette is my beste vriendin in die wêreld. Dít is hoekom ons verhouding werk.”

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame



Marathon swimmers are not your average humans. They voluntarily push themselves beyond the normal. Cold, rough and tough are three adjectives that are commonly used among the marathon swimming crowd. But Lewis Pughtakes cold, rough and tough to an entirely different level.

The former maritime lawyer (University of Cape Town graduate) and British Special Air Service warrior has done plenty of channel swims and ultra-marathon swims, but it is also his swims on high (on Mount Everest), down south (off Antarctica), and up north (across the North Pole) where he has established his name and reputation. His swims take on a significant amount of risk that requires full attention by his military experience and scientific mind. He surrounds himself by teams of experts and tackles swims that are considered impossible by the average person and extraordinarily daunting by his fellow aquatic adventurers.

UCT appoints Lewis Pugh as adjunct professor

17 May, 2017 |

Renowned environmentalist and alumnus Lewis Pugh has been appointed as adjunct professor in International Law at UCT. Pugh studied law in South Africa and the UK. He holds a BA, LLB and LLM in Maritime Law from UCT and an LLM in International Law from Cambridge University.

He frequently swims across vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to their plight. He is the only person to have completed a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world and has pioneered more swims around famous landmarks than any other swimmer in history.

The quest for ocean protection is about getting nations to agree to put their different agendas aside and cooperate for the greater good. For Pugh, this quest might start with high-profile swims but it quickly transfers to convincing government officials at the highest level to sign enforceable international agreements.

“I was always pulled by the world's waters. As a young boy I was fascinated by naval exploration; as a young man I was drawn to swim in some of the world's most challenging seas. But if I hadn't put my head down and studied law, I would not have been able to do what I do for the oceans,” he says.

In 2007 he undertook a long-distance swim across an open patch of sea at the North Pole, wearing only a Speedo swimming costume, to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice. He followed this up with a swim across a glacial lake on Mount Everest in 2010 to draw attention to the melting glaciers in the Himalayas.

Last year he helped negotiate the creation of the largest protected area in the world in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. The negotiations required consensus among 24 countries, a number of which had long-standing disputes with one another. The media dubbed his efforts, shuttling between the nations to secure the agreement, as "Speedo diplomacy”.

The Ross Sea Marine Protected Area is 1.5 million square kilometres – approximately the size of South Africa and Zimbabwe combined.

“Law taught me how to argue passionately and rationally – a balance that is key to being an environmental campaigner. I look forward to sharing my experiences in the field with students and colleagues at UCT's law department, the place where my legal education began,” says Pugh on his new role.

He believes strongly in the importance of education and says that the art of negotiating at international level is about cultivating respect, being open to points of view that are different from your own.

“Education in South Africa has never been so vibrant and so urgent. Today's world presents significant challenges – poverty, environmental degradation, racism, gender inequality, lack of education and illiteracy, terrorism, disease, hunger, climate change ... I am excited to be part of this nexus where law, politics and the environment intersect so dynamically, to help the next generation of lawyers and campaigners take on these issues,” says Pugh.

The Dean of Law, Professor Penelope Andrews, says having Pugh as part of the faculty is a valuable asset. “Having a graduate like Lewis Pugh makes us enormously proud ... Now that he is joining us as an adjunct professor, the staff and students will have the opportunity to engage with him on a regular basis. We will all benefit from his enormous experience and commitment to our planet and all who inhabit it.”