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Swampscott native aims to swim around Manhattan

Craig Lewin, a Swampscott native, trained at Phillips Beach to prepare for the swim around Manhattan. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott native Craig Lewin will attempt to complete his second leg of the Triple Crown of open-water swimming on Saturday, when he takes on the grueling 20 Bridges Swim Around Manhattan. 

Lewin, 33, a Canton resident, completed the first leg last year when he swam the Catalina Channel, which stretches from Santa Catalina Island, a rocky island off the California coast, to Los Angeles. 

If he’s successful this week, he’ll turn his focus to taking on the more famous English Channel swim, which is 21 miles from Dover, England, to Cap Gris-Nez in France. But he expects the third leg would be at least two years away because of the swim’s high expense and the need for intensive training. 

Lewin, who swam competitively at Swampscott High School and Boston College, said the 28.5-mile Manhattan swim will be a different challenge from what he encountered last year. He faced exhaustion and struggled to stay awake with an overnight swim through the Catalina Channel, while being pushed around by strong currents and battling a shoulder injury. 

But fortunately, he said, the swim around Manhattan Island takes place during the day. He’s set to kick off shortly before 9 a.m. and is aiming to finish in seven-and-a-half to eight hours. 

“I would love to be faster, but (I’m) being realistic,” Lewin said. “The goal of this is just finishing and trying to enjoy the experience.” 

The biggest challenge, Lewin said, will be getting enough speed to ensure he makes each current. With the Catalina, he said he could keep going and eventually get pulled in with the tide, but the heavily trafficked boating channel in Manhattan can become dangerous. Swimmers are unlikely to finish if they miss the currents and may get pulled out because of the danger, and officials aim for the 15 competitors to finish at the same time, he said. 

To prepare, Lewin said he’s been training at Phillips Beach in Swampscott for months. He trained four to six days a week in four-week blocks, which started with a speed week followed by increased volume, or distance weeks. He would swim to one to seven hours a day. A peak week would consist of swimming 35 miles, while a typical one would be 20 to 25 miles. 

Lewin’s support crew for the swim will include his father, Richard Lewin, his wife, Alexandra, on the boat alongside him and the father of one of his friends, who will be his kayaker and throw out his feeding line to keep him nourished during the long distance event. 

Lewin, who founded Endurance Swimming about a decade ago, credits the support of the community for showing an interest in him and keeping him motivated. Otherwise, swimming would be a lonely, difficult sport, he said.

Although he expects the swim to be a major challenge, he’s excited for the unique opportunity its Manhattan venue will bring. 

“(You see) skyscrapers and the backdrop of the city while you’re swimming so it’s really unique,” Lewin said. “You get scenery that most people will never really experience in their life. I’m looking forward to that experience and that’s going to be the really fun part of it.” 


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