On June 26, 2020, former Malta Olympian Neil Agius completed a 100 kilometer (~62-mile) open-water swim between Sicily and Malta in record-setting time. Photographer Kurt Arrigo accompanied Agius and documented the incredible feat.
Agius competed in the 2004 Olympics in the 400-meter freestyle and holds national records for the 400, 800, and 1,500-meter freestyle. The goal of this swim was to raise awareness about marine pollution and threats to marine habitats as a part of the Wave of Change movement.
Arrigo was invited to take part in documenting the swim. You may recall Arrigo for his excellent underwater photography.
“This was an important assignment to me both from a personal and documentative point of view,” Arrigo says. “As an open water swimmer, I have a huge connection and respect for the sea. Neil is a friend of mine and invited me to be part of the challenge and support his movement ‘Wave of Change’, Neil’s brainchild to empower people to keep our seas clean.”
Agius originally estimated that the swim would take about 35 hours, but was able to complete the swim much faster than that, in just 28 hours, seven minutes, and 27 seconds. Agius never touched the safety boats that followed his swim in that time.
Agius ate every thirty minutes, but after a certain amount of time, his diet became entirely liquid as he would suffer from what marathon swimmer call “salt tongue,” which results in a swollen, cut tongue.
Throughout Agius’ entire journey, Arrigo followed with a number of cameras both in the water and the air.
“This particular adventure required me to be present throughout the whole journey and capture it from every possible angle,” Arrigo says. “All my tools came into play, flying my drone to convey the expanse of the sea and my Aquatech underwater housing below the surface portraying Neil’s meditative state and steady, repetitive stroke. I photographed from sunrise to sunset and let the varying shades of light and sea conditions tell the story.”
Agius is the second person to complete the swim, with the only other recorded passage from Italy to Malta made by Nicky Farrugia in 1985. Farrugia completed his swim in 30 hours and 17 minutes.
“It’s not every day that you get to witness a world-class athlete take on such an incredible feat to convey such a simple message; to reduce plastic waste that ends up in the sea,” Arrigo says. “I felt a huge responsibility to really showcase the enormity of Neil’s challenge.”
In addition to the images, Aggrio partnered with director Ian Adams who devised the script for a short film titled “A Superhuman Mindset,” which is narrated by Neil Agius. You can watch that 2-minute film below:
Image credits: Photos by Kurt Arrigo and used with permission.