Athletes perform amazing feats on a daily basis– it’s in their job description.
Most of us could never imagine running a marathon, hiking across the country or swimming dozens of miles in Michigan’s famous lakes, though athletes do these things every day.
But even among athletes, some gifted individuals shed the expectations of what we consider athletic, shattering records and defying the limits of the human body as they earn their superhuman title.
These athletes turned demigods are often the subject of awe, envy and skepticism, and it’s no different for Jim “The Shark” Dreyer, known to many as the “human tugboat,” who famously said that though the human body is a limited (but amazing) machine, the human spirit has no limitations because it is driven by something larger than itself.
Jim Dreyer’s title, the human tugboat, became a household name when he was catapulted to fame via popular History Channel TV show Stan Lees Superhumans.
During the show, The Shark hauled a car weighing a whopping 27 tons across the Newport Beach Harbor.
Born and Early History
Jim Dreyer was born on August 16th, 1963, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Unlike many other famous athletes, Jim Dreyer’s astonishing abilities come from a place of fear– as a child, he barely survived a near-drowning.
This fear has carried over into his adulthood, as he still experiences an all-encompassing fear of deep water that he must face every time he attempts to break a swimming record.
He didn’t even learn to swim until he was thirty-two years old!
Though he seems to be an unlikely swimmer, his career followed a steady progression driven by the urge to continuously push himself to the next level.
He began his career of shattering records and dropping jaws in the year 1998, when he swam sixty-five miles across Lake Michigan, following a support boat.
He followed this up with swimming across Lake Huron in 1999, a distance of fifty-two miles.
But by the time the year 2000 arrived, swimming wasn’t enough to satisfy The Shark’s insatiable appetite for feats of strength and endurance.
To challenge himself, he started combining Ironman-distance biking and running with his record-setting swims across Michigan’s Great Lakes, something no other athlete had ever done.
Again, it wasn’t enough. He upped the stakes again in the year 2003, when he swam the entire length of Lake Michigan completely on his own, pulling his supplies’ weight behind him with his ankles.
During that feat, he covered a total of 422 miles in eighteen back-to-back stages.
While he was doing this, he came to believe that swimming this way– completely self-sufficiently– was the only way one could successfully swim across Lake Superior.
The Shark defeated Lake Superior two years later, in 2005. He swam sixty miles, continuously and self-sufficiently, combating rough waters as he battled his way all the way to Canada– and all this while pulling a back-breaking 250 pounds in supplies from his waist.
After completing these grueling swims across the Great Lakes, he still wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
He began “strength swimming” (a term of his own invention) most notably when he pulled half a ton of bricks swimming twenty-two miles, unaccompanied, across Lake St. Clair.
He was the first person who has combined world records with strength and swimming.
What can we learn from him?
Jim “The Shark” Dreyer, the human tugboat, is proof of the unstoppable nature of the human spirit when driven by the urge to continuously better itself.
He is a man who continues to face his fears every single day, despite the fact that they have nearly killed him several times, not only to withstand them but to defeat them.
Countless scientists have considered his feats physically impossible, but each time, he shatters their expectations and comes away with more support for his superhuman title.
In short, Jim Dreyer is proof that, if you tell a hard-headed athlete they can’t do something, they’re going to do it just to prove you wrong!
What is he currently doing?
Jim Dreyer’s latest adventure took place on August 15th, 2015. The event, Pfeiffer Lincoln Murdick’s Fudge Run, where he pulled a barge carrying a Pfeiffer Lincoln MKC all the way to Mackinac Island.
The luxury vehicle was raffled to benefit Habitat for Humanity after the post-swim party.
Videos and Links
Jim Dreyer finishes 22 mile swim across Lake St. Clair
Jim Dreyer discusses Diana Nyad
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