A 33-year-old man from the western Norwegian city of Haugesund has become the first person to swim over the Skagerrak from the tip of southern Norway to the tip of northern Denmark. Stian Vikra, who only started long-distance swimming six years ago, made the roughly 120-kilometer swim in 45 hours.
Vikra dove into the waters off Flekkerøya in Kristiansand on Thursday morning and arrived in Hanstholm, Denmark at 3am on Saturday. “It went well,” he told newspaper Aftenposten. “The worst was having my tongue in salt water for so long.” That meant he had trouble eating on Saturday, even though he was hungry and exhausted.
The former Norwegian equivalent of a Navy SEAL said he’d never been a serious swimmer until the age of 27, when he was challenged by a friend to swim over the English Channel. He then founded an organization called Svøm for livet (Swim for life) in 2008, to swim for charitable donations and draw attention to the need for organ donations, after his nephew died while waiting for a heart transplant.
After swimming over the English Channel in 14 hours he also swam the length of Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa, and the Lysefjord on the west coast. Skagerrak was his biggest project yet, and he spent two years planning for it.
VG Nett reported that the ambitious and grueling swim took much longer than the 30 hours expected, because of strong currents, cold water and high waves along the the way. Vikra, who had an escort boat, refused to give up, though.
“I’ve been working with this mentally for two years to succeed and that was the most important,” Vikra told Karmøynytt after arriving in Denmark. “I was determined to succeed.”