If you’re in need of extra motivation, swimming-related books and movies are a great place to start! From recounting tough endurance swims to explaining how swimming fits into different cultures, there’s always inspiration to be found in swimming stories.
We asked our global community to share their favorite swimming books and movies. Here are some of our favorites!
Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer – Lynne Cox
As one of the most well-known open water swimmers in the world, Lynne Cox has swum in some treacherous waters. In this book, she details how she trains for and completes her swims, including her 1-mile swim to Antarctica, in 32 degree water without a wetsuit. She shares how swimming has become an emotional and spiritual need, detailing the mystical beauty of swimming in the ocean each day.
Related: Why We Swim: Our New Favorite Swimming Read
Swimming With Men
This film tells the story of a group of middle-aged men, who find unlikely success as members of an amateur synchronized swimming team. Inspired by the true story of a Swedish men’s team that competed in the synchronized swimming world championship, this film takes a light-hearted look at traditional masculinity, proving that anyone, at any age, can enjoy being in the water!
Silver Lining – Elizabeth Beisel
In her first book, United States Olympian Elizabeth Beisel shares the path that led her to becoming one of the world’s top athletes, including the challenges and failures along the way. She explains the pressure that comes with being an Olympian, including how she managed that stress to compete at a high level for years. We interviewed Elizabeth about her swimming journey in the #AskASwimPro Show. Check out her interview here!
The Lido – Libby Page
When the pool in Brixton, UK is threatened with closure, two women band together to take a stand, proving that the pool is often more than just a place to swim laps — it’s a pillar of the local community! This book is a great, feel-good story about swimmers of all ages.
Relentless Spirit – Missy Franklin and D.A. and Dick Franklin
After her breakout performance in the 2012 London Olympics, many people wanted to know what it was like to raise Missy Franklin. Franklin and her parents share inspiring stories about training, school and faith that made her into the confident woman she is today.
This 2003 film focuses on Australian swimmer Tony Fingleton, detailing his rise to success as an elite backstroker in the 1950s and 1960s. Fingleton had a strained relationship with his father, who was also his coach for a time, and struggles to balance swimming with his drive to escape his family’s life of poverty in Brisbane, Australia.
48 Brazadas: Solo Tu Marcas Tu Horizonte – Miguel Sunyer
In this book, telecommunications engineer and avid open water swimmer Miguel Sunyer shares how swimming helps him overcome daily struggles, remain disciplined, and maintain a positive mindset.
No Limits: The Will to Succeed – Michael Phelps
The greatest Olympian of all time shares the successes, struggles and lessons he learned in his swimming career leading up to his record-breaking performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He details his dream of bringing the sport of swimming to more prominence in the United States and shares stories from his training and family life.
This Korean film tells the story of swimmer Won-il, who has retired from swimming after the death of his parents. With his life in shambles, Won-il is enrolled in a physical education-focused school by a family friend, in the hope that he will start swimming again. Won-il reignites a rivalry with fellow swimmer Woo-sang. The boys battle out as they train for an upcoming competition, and Won-il finds his love for the sport again.
Golden Glow: How Kaitlin Sandeno Achieved Gold in the Pool and in Life – Kaitlin Sandeno
Kaitlin Sandeno competed for the United States in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning 4 medals. Her book shares how she has used her platform as an elite athlete to help others, giving back to those in need and working to expand the reach of swimming in the United States and beyond. Check out our interview with Kaitlin on the #AskASwimPro Show!
Kim Chambers has completed some of the world’s toughest marathon swims. This documentary follows her preparation for the 30-mile swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge, waters known for strong currents, cold temperatures and Great White sharks. Watch Kim conquer her fears and overcome adversity to achieve her goal.
Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph – Yusra Mardini
Yusra Mardini went through a lot to get to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In this book, Mardini shares how her father pushed her to become an elite swimmer in her home country of Syria. She wins a national medal, but soon, tensions in the country escalate and she watches her home and her pool be destroyed by shells. Mardini and her sister escape, navigating a small dinghy to the island of Lesbos. She competed in the Olympics not for Syria, but for a refugee team, illustrating the individuality and power of the refugee community.
Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory – P.H. Mullen, Jr.
Follow a group of young men as they train for the 2000 Olympic Games. This book provides a unique perspective on what it is like to be an Olympic athlete, where teammates become direct competitors, setbacks become heartbreaking and triumphs are joyous.
Odd Man Out: An Autobiography – True Stories of a Gay Black Swimmer – Jeff Commings
Jeff’s personal story takes readers along on his swimming journey, including 2 Olympic Trials and a full swimming scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. The story also details Jeff’s struggles as a gay man in a sport with homophobic undertones. Follow Jeff as he learns to live confidently, finds love and carves out a place in society. Check out our interview with Jeff on the #AskASwimPro Show!
Do you have more favorites? Share them in the comments!
I recently watched a Korean drama series called, “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo”. The lead male was a swimmer, and i really enjoyed it.
Thanks for sharing, Nancy!
“Staying with It” by essayist John Jerome (much better known for other books such as “Truck”). He grew up swimming, albeit non-competitively; then as he approached 50, the bug caught him and he set out to become a champion masters swimmer. So the book details both his personal endeavors and everything he learned along the way about “the science of swimming” circa 1982. He is an elegant writer and it’s a book well worth tracking down.
Thanks for this suggestion, Bob! Sounds like a great read.
Missing from the list, the multiple award-winning bio-pic about Canadian World and Olympic Champion swimmer Victor Davis. I guarantee there won’t be a dry eye in the house after you watch it.
Thanks for this addition!
“Munich to Montreal” by Casey Converse tells the story of the US women’s swim team’s struggle against Eastern block doping (at the time), and the ultimate US victories in Montreal in the 1976 Olympics. Fantastic story that shows the development of the elite swimming we see today, and showcases some phenomenal athletes.