The last superhero in the world

A little fat and a little deranged, 57 year-old Slovenian Martin Strel swims the Amazon while drinking two bottles of wine a day. He is everything you are not. So why not go with him on a swimming tour?

Martin Strel swimming through the Amazon river, 2007

Described both as an environmentalist and a madman, Martin Strel is a peculiar figure in today’s world of ecological disasters, political instability and the ubiquitous celebrity culture. He has managed to deliver attention both to himself and his cause, yet remaining true to his own unorthodox lifestyle.

Holding successive Guinness world records in swimming the largest rivers in the world (Danube, Mississippi, Yangtze, and the Amazon), Strel is an overweight, 57 year-old alcohol lover who seems to care for his life as much as he doesn’t give a damn about it. A walking/swimming contradiction, he appears both gentle and brutal, cautious and impulsive, obsessively rational and utterly insane. His mission is noble, but he will go for it his style. His favorite nutrition are horse burgers, by the way.

In 2007, Strel (aged 52) swam the entire length of the Amazon, an ultimate record-breaking distance of 3,273 mi (5,268 km), longer than the width of the Atlantic Ocean. He did it so he could raise awareness for deforestation and cleaner waterways, with his motto “for peace, friendship and clean waters”. Strel’s 66 days long odyssey through world’s longest river, packed with crocodiles and piranhas, was filmed by John Maringouin whose resulting documentary Big River Man (2009) won the best Cinematography award at Sundance Film Festival, turning its protagonist into the most famous Slovenian in the world next to Slavoj Zizek. It’s easy to see why:

Today, Strel still eats a lot of horse meat, raw vegetables, nuts and dried fruit, oiled with beer and wine to keep him going. And of course, he’s still swimming. But this time, you can go with him. The man himself takes you on a 4 day tour through the magnificent, crystal-clear glacial lakes in the Slovenian Alps, surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls, open to everyone who is able to endure an average of 4km per day of swimming. Judging by the articles in The Guardian and Financial Times, it is Strel’s charisma, combined with breath-taking natural sceneries, that makes you go beyond your physical limits.

It would be easy to imagine a comic book or a cartoon with Strel in the leading role, wouldn’t it? This slightly obese middle-aged Balkan guy who swims giant rivers, fight snakes and crocodiles on the way, alerting the world of pollution and global warming while eating horse burgers and drinking galons of wine. But fortunately, Martin Strel exists in real life. If there ever was a superhero on this planet, he just may be the one.

*More info on Strel Swimming Adventures: