The Straits of Gibraltar is the site of many sport challenges for open water swimmers. Many of these challenges have become world records, such as the one beaten by Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros when he swam across the Straits of Gibraltar by doing the butterfly stroke.

“With every word I write I get all emotional.” says Hector when he starts telling us his experiences as a swimmer. Swimming across the Straits of Gibraltar is a goal many open-water swimmers dream of. This natural paradise that joins two continents has become an unforgettable experience for all those who have had the opportunity to cross it.

It is not always easy at the beginning. Common difficulties when it comes to swimming across the Straits of Gibraltar.


Crossing the Straits of Gibraltar is unpredictable due to its weather conditions which are marked by sudden changes of wind and sea currents. As a result, crossings are often cancelled or postponed. “Everything was planned for the first week of September, but due to weather conditions it had to be postponed until the 8th.”

“I had to wait day in and day out for a confirmation phone call. By the end of the week I didn’t think I would reach the dream I had fought so hard for.” Many crossings are cancelled due to weather conditions. Swimmers train very hard and for long and their expectations are sometimes not met. This makes them feel frustrated and hopeless. That is why we always inform swimmers about potential unforeseen circumstances that may arise.

ACNEG´s team briefing session before the crossing starts. Instructions and recommendations


Mental training when swimming across the Straits of Gibraltar


Is a very important part of open water swimming taking into account that swimmers have to spend quite a long time in a harsh environment at low temperatures.



“Everything was ready on the day of the crossing. I was lost in thought. The organizers were explaining the details of the crossing… when I suddenly heard the whistle.  At the beginning, during the first few metres, all the people that I would have liked to have been there while I was fulfilling my dream came to my mind. I remembered all those who were worried about me, all the hours of training…”

Concentration is the key in such a sport that requires so much background work. This entails focusing our attention on everything we can control and to avoid focusing on external matters that can distract our attention from our goal. Therefore, mental training is essential.


Facing difficulties when crossing the Straits of Gibraltar

“During the first hour I knew it was going to be the hardest sporting event I had ever had to face to. Just 10 strokes into the swim made me realize about the harshness of the Straits of Gibraltar. I had been previously informed about sea currents and that they were stronger at the first and last part of the crossing and that if I could not overcome those currents, the crossing would have to be cancelled. The waves in the first hour were steeper as water was hitting the shore. That made my breathing more difficult and I could not see the guide boat. Once that part was over I could focus on technique and get used to the rhythm of the waves and start to enjoy it.

After 3 hours and 30 minutes I started to feel sick as a consequence of the last refreshment I had taken. I was retching and that prevented me from enjoying and made me feel worried as I was still halfway from the finishing line. I could not eat or drink anything else for another hour and a half”


Visualize your goal

Visualization is a psychological technique essential in this sport. Héctor explains to us very well how he implemented this during the crossing in order to raise his spirits and overcome the last part which was really difficult: “I started to see the African contour, before that I could not make anything out on the horizon. Suddenly the mountain range started to take shape and every breath I took I could see little pieces of land in the mountains, I could see colours, I could feel Morocco”.

The importance of someone standing by your side

“At the end of the crossing I could hear my whole team encouraging me, I knew they were keeping an eye on me, I knew my friends and my family were worried, but, above all, what really made me move forward and continue swimming, were the ones who would have liked to have been there but couldn´t make it. “

ACNEG has a boat available for those who would like to join the swimmers during their crossing. Seats are limited (depending on the number of swimmers). We fully understand how important it is to be accompanied by right hand people during this challenge and how this plays a crucial role in motivating the swimmers. For further information please write an email to acneg@acneg.com. If there are not enough seats available, you can also hire a boat yourself if that is more convenient for you.


Positive dialogue

“I lost track of time, I could see the shore but despite swimming as much as I could, I could not get closer. I imagined myself finishing the crossing, touching the finishing line and getting on to the boat, I just wanted to hug my mother. The sea current in the last 500 metres was really strong, I could not move forward but I could see the arrival point, it was at that point that I forgot all my training and I could not think about how hard that last part was. All I could think about were the last words my sister had written for me “you’re the best”. I repeated those words to myself again and again; I knew I could not let my sister down. “

It was during that time that Hector took refuge in remembering positive memories allowing his motivation and strength to grow as well as his self-confidence. This kept him going during the hardest moments of the swim.

What do you feel when your dream comes true?

With 22 years old, Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros, swam butterfly record across the Straits of Gibraltar on 8th September 2013. He was the first person to achieve it and beat the world record. He did it in 7 hours and 5 minutes:

“There are no words to describe my last 3 strokes and how I was getting closer and closer to my dream.” I was filled with a smile and happiness. I reached the finishing point; I touched it with my hands and told myself “I’ve achieved it”. I had to enjoy that moment; I sat on a rock laughing, raising my arms with my thumbs up and enjoyed what seemed to be the impossible. I was clapping while the whole team was congratulating me. I could not believe it was true; it was like a dream. I hit the water raising my left arm and pointed my index finger at the sky, I closed my eyes and sent all my energy to all those I knew were expecting this arrival … I was the first one, the only person who had succeeded, I had made history “.

Crossing time: 7 hours and 5 minutes


Our people. About Héctor

 “My name is Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros and I would like to encourage you to continue dreaming. From my own experience I can assure you that with effort, determination and commitment your dreams will come true”

Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros

1st person in the world who has swam across the Straits of Gibraltar by doing the butterfly stroke. (World record).

3rd runner-up of  WOWSA awards (World Open Water Swimming Association)

2nd butterfly stroke swimmer in the world in open water swimming according to WOWSA (World Open Water Swimming Association)

Personal trainer who also collaborates with ACNEG from Madrid. Founder of Laguz Swimming (Online and face to face individual coaching and training. Specialists in open water swimming). If you would like to swim across the Straits of Gibraltar and you would like specific training, contact us and we will put you in touch with Héctor.


And you? Would you like to make your dream come true? We look forward to hearing from you!


Further information of interest:



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