The 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim is the brain child of race director David Barra. While working installing granite at a riverside home in West Camp a decade ago, Barra could step outside and see the Hudson stretch from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. It was then that he first thought how cool it would be to swim the length between those two bridges. He then learned that the distances between the eight bridges from the Rip Van Winkle to the Verrazano-Narrows was anywhere from 15 to 20 miles and thought if you could swim between two of them, why not swim them all.
In 2011, Barra and nineteen intrepid marathon swimmers including co-race director Rondi Davies tested the waters from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in Catskill to Brooklyn’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge — approximately 120 miles of rolling river, and showed the swim could be done. Barra came short of completing all seven stages by mere yards when the flooding tide at the Tappan Zee Bridge held him back from completing Stage 5. Davies finished five of the seven stages.
Grace Van Der Byl and Davies were the first to swim the 120 mile distance in 2012. Van Der Byl holds the speed records for all seven stages. Later in the Summer Van Der Byl showed her formidable prowess and talent by breaking Karen Reeders 1994 Catalina Channel record.
In 2013, unseasonably cold water temperatures added to 7-stage, 7-day challenge. Hannah Borgeson of New York, NY completed Stages 2, 3 and 4. In addition, the World Open Water Swimming Organization (WOWSA) recognized 8 Bridges as one of Americas top 100 open water swims for 2014.
2014 saw excellent conditions for Stages 1-4, with sunny, windless days and fast currents; John Hummenik set the course record for Stage 3 and Dave Farrell set the men’s record for Stage 4. Stages 5-7 were hounded by head winds and sluggish currents leading to many DNFs: only one of four swimmers completed Stage 5 and four of 12 swimmers completed the usually fast-current-driven Stage 6. Andrew Malinak from Seattle, WA (via the Hudson Valley) became the first male and third swimmer to complete all seven stages. James Penrose from London, England also participated in all seven stage but was not able to complete Stages 5 and 6 due to slower than normal currents. Heather Camargo from Florida won the four stage challenge followed by Andrew Malinak, Ed Riley and James Penrose.