Controversial Swimmer Jennifer Figge Sets Sail for Hawaii

Jan 4, 2011
Outside Magazine

Jennifer Figge, Paolo Marchesi

On December 30th, 58-year-old Aspen socialite and endurance athlete Jennifer Figge, who gained notoriety in 2009 after “swimming” the Atlantic, set off on her new quest to swim long stretches between Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and Hawaii—a distance of some 3,000 miles.

Her 2009 swim across the Atlantic became a media firestorm after it was erroneously reported that she swam the entire 2,500-mile route. Instead, she was in the water for up to 12 hours a day, covering upwards of 25 miles in 20-foot waves, and then resting aboard a drifting catamaran at night. When she reached Trinidad the media hailed her as the first woman to swim the Atlantic. But then it became clear she didn’t swim the entire distance and the web lit up with the “great Atlantic Ocean swimming hoax.” To Figge none of it mattered. (See our January 2011 story on her, “Woman Overboard”). She quietly went back and repeated the swim again, saying that “being in the water just gives me life.”

And now she’s off “swimming” the Pacific. When she reaches Hawaii, there will no doubt be another round of criticisms and accolodes. But it remains to be seen whether this time she’ll be hailed as a remarkable athlete who simply likes to travel in an eccentric way, or derided as the swimmer who cried wolf.

You can follow her progress at, which she’ll be updating via SAT phone. 

--Ryan Krogh

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