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Jean Craven and swimming's Big 6

Jean Craven and swimming's Big 6

Mar 2015

JEAN CRAVEN, the first person to complete all six inter-continental swims

In a nutshell: Completing the six inter-continental swims and in the process raising in excess of US$300 000 for 11 children’s and orphanage charities in South Africa and Russia. The swims were:

Asia to North America 5.5km (Bering Strait) 2014
North to South America 21.3km (Isthmus of Panama) 2013
Asia to Africa 21km (Red Sea) 2012
Asia to Oceana /Australasia 23.3km (Papua New Guinea to Indonesia) 2011
Asia to Europe 12km (Bosphorus) 2010
Europe to Africa 17km (Strait of Gibraltar) 2009 

Category: Individual; assisted

Adventurer: Jean Craven, 43 years

Birthplace: Que Que, Rhodesia (now Kwe Kwe, Zimbabwe)

Residence: Johannesburg 

Profession:  Entrepreneur 

Previous big adventures: Swimming 38km across Lake Tanganyika.

Duration of expedition: 6 days, over 6 years

Completion date of expedition: 29 July 2014

Highlights: Becoming the first person to have completed all inter-continental swims; the extremely remote locations and attendant logistical issues; sighting various water animals including orcas, sharks, crocodiles, and walruses


ETG (Papua New Guinea, Panama, Bering) 
Barak Fund Management (Panama, Bering)
Riparian Commodities (Panama, Bering)
NMB Insurance Brokers (Bering)
RFIB Insurance Brokers (Bering)
Eurofin Asia (Bering)

To find out more


To complete all the intercontinental swims and, through Madswimmer, raise money for children’s charities. 


To the best of my knowledge three other swimmers have completed 4 or 5 inter-continental swims but no one has done all 6. 


Each trip took on average 9 months planning and administration. Getting permission to swim across international boundaries was especially time-consuming: getting permission for the Red Sea swim took 18 months!


Besides drowning and, on the Bering Strait swim, hypothermia, there was also the chance of being attacked by hostile sea animals. 


We always had support boats though these were not always up to much. On the PNG crossing for example I was the only swimmer. A good friend of mine (I struggled to convince anyone to join me for the swim because of the remote location), together with a local boat driver supported me from a ‘banana boat’, a small wooden boat with a 40cc outboard so I kept close to the shore where I could.

On some trips we had spotters for crocodiles (Papua New Guinea and Panama), sharks (Papua New Guinea, Red Sea) and walruses (Bering Strait). On the Bering swim, we had lifeguards and hypothermia doctors on the boat.


Corporate sponsors helped cover our costs on the day of the swim but I paid my own accommodation and flights. What cash was left from the corporate sponsors went to charity. Donations from the public entirely went to our charities. 


Photographs, video footage and the word of our fellow swimmers. 


The first leg, swimming the Strait of Gibraltar, was the result of a bet between friends – with the winnings donated to charity. Then came the familiar “what next” question: so, I decided to attempt to become the first person to complete the inter-continental swim challenge to raise funds for children’s charities.

Necessary technical skills

Obviously being able to swim long distances in open water, but as with most extreme adventures the key thing is to have a strong, determined mind – particularly when organizing and training for the event.

Scariest moment

Seeing the meter reading a current of 7km/hour and 3.2 degrees C water temperature in the Bering Strait

Lowest point

The arrival of a general from the Papua New Guinea army at our shack at 10pm the evening before our planned swim telling us we wouldn’t be permitted to do so.

Funniest moment

After a few celebratory drinks at a bar following our final swim, the entire population of Nome, Alaska joined us for a tour of a luxury cruise liner that was only intended for the swimmers. Luckily the Captain was a South African.

Biggest lesson

Perseverance will grant you success.

What would you have done differently

Started earlier in my life with this swimming adventure.

Best piece of gear


Anything you wish you’d taken along

More swimmers.

Most amazing person you met on the trip

There were two. Amos Oxereuk, an ex Wall Street capitalist who’d returned home to Wales, Alaska to join his fellow Inupiaq and assisted us in our Bering Strait swim. Steve Tekwei, PNG surf champ and head of the Sunset Surf Club who helped us in Papua New Guinea. I sent him a BlackBerry from South Africa when I got back so that we could message and keep contact.

What did you eat

Carbs before swims, beer after.

Worst thing that bit you

The bug to do the next adventure.

What hurt most

The chafing on my neck – the result of wearing a wetsuit for so long in salt water. 

What’s next

Swimming in the lake below the Ojos del Salado peak – the world’s highest ever swim at 6400m. We have already registered this with the Guinness Book of Records. 

Tip for other adventurers

NIKE (Just do it)


The contenders for the Nightjar Adventurer 2015 competition were all interviewed by Nightjar. The content included therein is, to our knowledge, accurate and true.

Adventurer 2015