Strait of Gibraltar by the Numbers

Since 1928, 625 swimmers have swam across the Strait of Gibraltar. 85% male swimmers and 15% female.

Where swimmers come from

66% of swimmers are from four countries: Spain (38%), USA (11%), UK (10%) and India (8%). 62% of male swimmers come from 3 countries: Spain (38%), UK (10%), and the USA (9%). On the women side, 64% of them come from the USA (24%), Spain (20%) and India (20%). Big news for me to see the large representation of Indian female swimmers in this group.

Country Total swimmers Men Women
Spain 38% 43% 20%
USA 11% 9% 24%
UK 10% 10% 6%
India 8% 5% 20%
Italy 5% 5% 1%
South Africa 4% 3% 5%
Argentina 3% 3% 1%
Germany 3% 2% 4%
Australia 2% 2% 3%
Ireland 2% 2% 2%
Mexico 1% 2% 2%
Portugal 1% 2% 0%
Brazil 1% 1% 1%
France 1% 1% 1%
Greece 1% 1% 2%
Other 9% 9% 8%

How long it takes them to swim across the Strait

The average time it has taken swimmers to cross Gibraltar is 4 hours 41 minutes. Male swimmers’ average is 4 hours 39 minutes, while women’s average time is 4 hours 51 minutes.

Relative speed by swimmer segments (of at least 10 swimmers)

Setting the overall average crossing time as index = 100, we see that the fastest segment of swimmers are South African men. Also faster than the average crossing time are Australian men, Spanish men, Spanish women and US women. The slowest segments are Indian men and women. Also slowern than the average are Argentinian men, UK men, German men and Italian men.

Swimmer segments Average = index 100
Women India 110.2
Men India 110.2
Men Argentina 105.1
Women average 103.3
Men UK 101.1
Men Italy 100.7
Men Germany 100.7
Total Average 100
Women US 99.6
Men average 99.3
Men USA 98.9
Women Spain 97.1
Men Spain 95.6
Men Australia 93.1
Men South Africa 91.3

Swimmers getting faster

From 1929 to 1949, the average swim across the Strait of Gibraltar took more than 11 hours. between 1950 and 1999, the average swim came down to between 5.5 hours and 6 hours. In the last decade, swimmers’ average has further come down to 4:31.

Year of crossing Time
1929 – 1949 11:17
1950 – 1969 05:37
1970 – 1989 06:00
1990 – 1999 05:27
2000 – 2012 04:31

When they swim

August and September are the most popular months to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.

May and July are the months with the fastest average crossings.

August has the warmest waters with July and September temperatures slightly colder.

Crossings Average time Water temperature in Tarifa
May 4% 04:23 18 C (64.4 F)
Jun 11% 04:35 21 C (69.8 F)
Jul 17% 04:32 23 C (73.4F)
Aug 28% 04:44 24C (75.2 F)
Sept 29% 04:43 23 C (73.4F)
Oct 11% 04:44 21C (69.8F)
Total 100% 04:41

How they cross (solo or in a group)?

A large majority of successful swims are done solo. The second most popular format is in pairs, which accounts for 26% of crossings. Crossing in groups of 3 or more account for less than 10% of successful swims. The time it takes to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar varies, but it is tough to say if there is any correlation.

Number of swimmers in crossing % of crossings Time of crossing
Solo 64% 04:41
2 26% 04:46
3 4% 04:14
4 3% 04:37
More than 5 2% 04:07

If any of you wants me to take a look at these stats with a different angle, just leave a comment and I’ll look into it.

Categories: Gibraltar


14 replies

  1. M — what about age distribution?John

  2. Any shark attacks?
    Sort of.

  3. Do you know the current amount of females to have completed the swim? I leave in 2 weeks for my Gibraltar Swim and was wondering how many women went before me!

    Thanks, Kerry

    • Hi Kerry. As of last year (fall/spring), there had been around 90 women that had swam successfully across the strait. Good luck with your swim, and we would love to hear back from you afterwards. Keep in touch and best of luck.

  4. What is the most common reason for those unable to finish? Jellyfish? Shark Attacks? Lack of training? Any stats on that?

    • Hi Juan. We don’t have access to stats on unsuccessful attempts. However, we can discard the shark attacks as a cause. Assuming that all those attempting the swim are prepared to swim the distance on normal conditions, the most likely reason for unsuccessful attempts is related to the weather (wind, currents). Changing weather conditions could make a crossing very difficult or impossible regardless of the swimmer’s ability.

  5. How old must you be to swim the strait, and will it cost any money? (I’m hoping to do it to raise money for Africa)

  6. John, do you know the stats for wetsuits vs. non-wetsuits?

  7. Is there only one service, ACNEG, that allows swimmers to do this crossing and be an official time? We had been planning on swimming it and waited for them to update their 2014 information – then all of a sudden they said they are booked for the year – It was only Jan 17th when we were looking

    • Hi Brandon. Yes, its only ACNEG. They do fill up very quickly and it seems like their website is not kept up to date. Find out when is the first day to send the application for next year and make sure to send it that day as soon as possible. All the best.

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