“Nothing Great Is Easy”

Have you ever wondered when the first swim across the English Channel was?

Captain Matthew Webb swam the English Channel on August 25, 1875

On August 25, 1875 an Englishman did it. It took Matthew Webb, an officer in the British merchant marine, 22 hours to swim from Dover to Calais.

Webb’s feat of courage and endurance has since been repeated by many hundreds. Nonetheless, today’s swimmers wear high tech neoprene suits that allow them to withstand the cold waters of the channel.

In 1875 Webb tried to protect himself from hypothermia with porpoise fat. He fought through jellyfish stings, challenging tides and strong currents. But he persevered.

The fame and the recognition he received pushed Webb to more extreme attempts. That path turned out not to be conducive to a long and quiet life.

First person to swim The English Channel in 1875

Matthew Webb

In 1883, Webb tempted faith for the last time when he tried to swim through Niagara rapids. His final resting place is Oakwood cemetery, Niagara Falls, NY.

Back in his hometown in England, a memorial dedicated to Matthew Webb reads: ‘Nothing great is easy’.

Lost in the mists of time, Matthew Webb’s last feat of daring at Niagara Falls. Decide for yourself the depths of courage it took to face the Falls.




  1. Jon Tribbeck says:

    You state that, “today’s swimmers wear high tech neoprene suits that allow them to withstand the cold waters of the channel.” This is incorrect! Today’s Channel swims are only ratified when conducted under “Channel Rules”. Swimmers embark on a Channel swim under similar condition as those which Captain Webb experienced. We wear only a silicone hat, goggle and trunks/costume. No artificial aids such as wetsuits are allowed!

    • Helena Kaufman says:

      Thank you for the technical correction about swimming gear and the high standard and committment. Skin in the game as it were although the playing field is a massive body of water!

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