Robert “Bob” West Nominated for Induction into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame

Photo Courtesy: Robert "Bob" West

By Melissa Berkay, Swimming World College Intern

If you have not already spoken to him at La Jolla Cove, received a gift of a Garibaldi-wire design ornament from him, or participated in one of his organized long-distance ocean swims, let me introduce you to Robert “Bob” West.

West has been a source of inspiration to the marathon swimming community for many years and his consistent priority has been to wrangle as many individuals as possible into the sport. Since the 1980s, he has shared his passion for long-distance open water swimming by encouraging and mentoring open water swimmers from his training grounds, La Jolla Cove. Carol Sing and Anne Cleveland are two athletes West has mentored; both have been inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.



Photo Courtesy: Robert “Bob” West


His swimming roots sprouted at the age of 12, when West swam the two miles to-and-from La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores as a member of the Boy Scouts. He was a high school teacher and a football coach for Bonita Vista High School and Sweetwater High School; e taught English, History, AP History, Honors History, and Honors English. It was not until the age of 50 that West decided to dedicate himself full-time to marathon swimming.

He participated as a member of the support team crews for Catalina Channel swimmers in 1989 and 1990. After witnessing his first channel crossing as a crew member, he felt inspired to involve himself in training to complete crossings himself. On August 19, 1989, West completed the 28.5-mile swim around Manhattan.

In 1991, at age 55, West became the oldest swimmer to cross the Catalina Channel, setting the age record for Catalina-to-Mainland. In 1996, West completed the English Channel, and became the fourth person to complete the “Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming” which consists of completing the swim around Manhattan, the Catalina Channel, and the English Channel.

He was the first “Half-Century Club” member to complete the “Triple Crown.” In 1998, West re-set the Catalina Channel crossing age-record at 62 years and nine months; that record stood until 2014. West also completed two successful 10-mile crossings between the islands of Lanai and Maui, in Hawaii. An additional major achievement of West’s was earning a first place ranking for his age-group in the United States Masters Swimming National Championships for the 8.5-mile distance from Huntington Beach to Seal Beach in 1989.



Photo Courtesy: Robert “Bob” West


Although West has acquired an impressive list of personal achievements in the sport of marathon swimming, he asserts that his most outstanding accomplishment has been his success at organizing distance relay swims around the world. He has served as a catalyst for increasing the exposure and popularity of open water swimming.

His relays have included a 54-mile circumnavigation of Catalina Island, a 21-mile swim across the North Channel of the Irish Sea, a 16-mile swim from Capri to Ischia off of the coast of Italy, a 12-mile swim from Victoria, British Columbia to James Island, Canada, a 12-mile relay swim in Cabo San Lucas from Land’s End to Chileno Bay, and several coastal relays in Southern California.

These relay swims West organized ignited the passion for long-distance open water swimming in many of today’s channel swimmers. Spreading his love for open water swimming to athletes around the world has resulted in West’s becoming a powerful asset to the sport of marathon swimming. West has served as President and as a board member for the La Jolla Cove Swim Club since 1985.



Photo Courtesy: “Robert” Bob West


West has volunteered his experience and mentoring-skills for an innumerable amount of swimmers who have gone on to cross channels and complete record-breaking swims. He has been an official observer for the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, and has volunteered his time and service to train, inspire, mentor, and be a part of crew teams for many swimmers around the world.

His dedication to the sport of marathon swimming has shined through his actions and has granted him a nomination into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, the highest honor bestowed upon a marathon swimmer.



Photo Courtesy: Robert “Bob” West

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Nkosinathi Kinqa
Nkosinathi Kinqa
7 years ago

This is indeed fantastic story as I have just read. It is encouraging to anyone who likes the idea of swimming.

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