Our 2018 Celebrity Starter is Cool!

We've been very blessed at the North Shore Challenge to have some very excellent #swimbuddies who have come out to join us as Celebrity Starters. In 2015, we had open water swimming royalty, Vicki Keith, to help us kick things off. Last year, Olympian Zsofi Balazs swam the 10km and shared her expertise with us. This year, we are proud to welcome a real superhero, the IceMan himself: Madhu Nagaraja!

If you have ever had the good fortune of meeting or (even better yet) swimming with Madhu Nagaraja, you will know that he the nicest, most humble guy you could meet. A devoted husband and father, I most recently ran into Madhu at a swim meet, where he was chatting casually with other swim parents, waiting for his son to hit the water. No one at that pool would suspect they were in the midst of greatness. In fact, it probably makes him uncomfortable to be called great. And yet...

The Resume

Madhu's list of accomplishments reads like a bucket list, or a "Top 10" list of really hard stuff:

  • English Channel Crossing, 2004
  • Maui Channel Crossing, 2008
  • 250km Marathon des Sables, 2010
  • Lake Ontario Crossing, 2012
  • Straits of Magellan Crossing, 2017

This most recent crossing may have been Madhu's most challenging, because it had bested him once before. After a valiant attempt in 2015, only to be pulled within sight of the finish, due to hypothermia. With his successful crossing in 2017, Madhu became the 23rd person ever, and the first Canadian and first Indian swimmer to swim the Strait, which boasted 2m waves, 50km/h winds, and 4 degree Celsius waters.


"The experience of failure is a tricky thing, and it's all so massive. How do you face that? How do you build a support system to make yourself believe in the things that you've done and get back and focus on getting across?"

Madhu Nagaraja

The Mission

But as Madhu would gladly tell you, it's not (just) about the swimming. Since his earliest days as an age group swimmer in India, Madhu has always been driven by his desire to make the world a better place. His swim across the English Channel was to honour his homeland (and was inspired by a book written by former Indian President, Dr. Abdul Kalam); his swim across Lake Ontario was inspired by people in his life who were battling cancer (a cause close to our heart here at NSC); the Strait of Magellan was about team-building, but also a way of marking his adopted country's 150th anniversary.
In addition to his endurance pursuits, Madhu has poured his passion for our planet into organizing. In recent years, he has been a co-founder of Great Lakes Trust, a collective of scientists and academics, artists and athletes, adventurers and community advocates, working to restore and protect this vital heritage we all share in our Great Lakes. With GLOW: Great Lakes Open Water, Madhu and his #swimbuddies Mauro Campanelli, Loren King, and Janice Barker, promote and pursue adventures in our home waters and around the world. One of the very first GLOW adventures involved swimming a mile in each of the Great Lakes in a 24hr span! Last month, Madhu was named a 2018 Swim Drink Fish Ambassador for Lake Ontario Waterkeepers.

The Celebrity Starter

And in addition to all these accolades, we are so happy that Madhu will be be our North Shore Challenge Celebrity Starter for 2018! Last year, he competed in our 3.8km event (something we hope he'll consider again), and will be on the horn for the 10km start. As well, he will help us present awards, and will speak about GLOW and GLT. He'd also welcome a chat with anyone in the crowd that day - just look for his trademark smile; it'll be the biggest one in the room! If you'd like the chance to meet and talk with Madhu, make sure you register today!
Register Today