2019-2020 Service to Marathon Swimming Award

The recipient of the 2019-2020 MSF Service to Marathon Swimming Award, recognizing outstanding contributions to the sport in a non-swimming role, is Phil White.

Few open water swimming organizers have built so much – from so little – as Phil White, founder of the Kingdom Swim, In Search of Memphre, “Swim the Kingdom” week, and the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival. In the remote Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Phil had a large, world-class body of water (Lake Memphremagog) and several smaller lakes, but little local population or infrastructure to support it.

Starting with the 10-mile Kingdom Swim in 2009, Phil gradually expanded to a year-round programme of events - the Kingdom Games. By 2019, Kingdom Games supported 171 swimmers on 16 distinct marathon swims, as part of “over 30 days of running, biking, swimming, kayaking, speed skating, Nordic skating, and winter swimming events” involving over 1,500 athletes. Worth noting, this is in a region where the entire county’s population is only 27,000.

In addition to event organizing, Phil has piloted and crewed on numerous solo swims, including Sarah Thomas’ world-record setting 104-mile Lake Champlain swim.

In his ambitious vision to create world-class open-water swimming opportunities in an improbable, landlocked location, Phil stands among the most powerful and consistent contributors to the sport over the past 10 years. To paraphrase a famous movie line: He built it, and they came.