Bogdan Cosmin Zurbagiu - Iron Gates of the Danube

Bazias to Orsova

115.8 km (72.0 miles)

28 hours, 46 minutes on 12-13 August 2021

Observed and documented by Dan Ardelean & Marius Grigore



Support Personnel


Dan Ardelean

  • Swimming coach at CSS Hunedoara Swimming Club from 2003 – present day
  • Former Romanian national champion in backstroke between 1993 – 1996, at age group category.
  • Over 30 years swimming experience as a swimmer and coach.
  • Offered the title of Master of Sports by the Romanian National Swimming Federation (FRNPM) and with a bachelor degree in sport and a master’s degree in sports management.
  • Qualified as swimming referee
  • Official observer for Avram Iancu’s Iron Gates of the Danube swim, ratified by MSF in 2020.

Marius Grigore

Observer Marius Grigore is federal coach and member of the Federal Committee of the Romanian National Swimming Federation, affiliated to FINA and LEN. He is also general manager of Bucharest Sport Club. He was official observer on Bogdan Zurbagiu’s Lake Razelm swim, ratified by MSF in 2020.

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (TYR briefs), TYR mirror goggles, Speedo clear googles for night, MSF silicone yellow swim cap, safety lights for night visibility.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Danube River
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Bazias town marina (boat ramp in front of Danube milestone 1073, in front of church) (44.81578, 21.38864)
  • Finish Location: Orsova town marina (boat ramp in front of Damiro pension & restaurant) (44.72678, 22.40007)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 115.8 km (72.0 miles) (map)


  • Avram Iancu - 103.8 km swim in Danube River from Pojejena to Iron Gates 1 - MSF documentation
  • Unratified swim on 98.8 km route from Pojejena to Orsova by Paul Georgescu

As a 115.8 km route, this is the longest known continuous, unassisted marathon swim on the Danube.

Swim Data

  • Start: 12 August 2021, 10:26:24 (Europe/Bucharest, Central European Summer Time, UTC3).
  • Finish: 13 August 2021, 15:13:22
  • Elapsed: 28 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 25.2 27.7
Air Temp (C) 16 32
Wind (kph) 3.4 23

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot


Generally, every ½ hour carbohydrates in form hydrogel from Maurten, 3 times.

The 4th time (after 2hours): either a small or a bigger meal (snacks, macaroni, cheese sandwich, banana, muffin/ brownie, protein bar, dark chocolate, dried fruit “smochine”, coffee/ water etc).

From time to time: salt, magnesium, l-carnitine, BCAA/ protein, fast recovery drink, nurofen (ibuprofen) etc.

Observer Log

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by Bogan Zurbagiu

What inspired you to do this swim?

In 2019 I was part of the project Seven Lakes organized by a Romanian sports association, and I swam the Belis lake. The Iron Gates of Danube was planned for 2021, after we did in 2020 the Vidraru and Bicaz swims. Meanwhile, in 2020, the organization organized on a short-notice a swim for another Romanian swimmer and the “plan” lost “the first” element.

I continued to train in 2020/2021 for my goals of 2021 (Antibes -which was postponed for 2022, Toroneos, “something extreme”, Worthersee etc) and, while training, the “something extreme” got a name: the longest unassisted swim in Danube, from entry in Romania Bazias town to the Iron Gates 1 dam lake, at Orsova town. A swimming distance of about 120 kilometers, and a ratified distance which is tbd. A swim across the borders of Romania and Serbia.

There isn’t any other swimming spot in Romania, that has the history of wars, shifting borders, myths of river fish as big as whales, “boiling” waters due to various currents, sunken villages for the creation of the dam and grandeur of this place.

Describe how you planned for the swim.

For the organization of this swim, in the absence of financial sponsorship, I benefited from a huge support from my friends, that have provided their full support, mental support and for the swim a boat and their physical assistance, acting as crew. I also have been honored to be observed by two unique individuals and persons, that are international swimming referees and that have already experience also observing MSF documented swims (one, my own Razelm swim, the other – a similar shorter distance documented swim in Danube, for another swimmer).

So, I had one support boat, with 5 assistants that were going to work in 3 shifts and 2 observers that were going to be present full time and observe the entirety of the swim.

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?

At the start another team was present, my friend Mihai Badea was going to have its own swim for 115 kilometers, in neoprene. Mihai had applied and obtained from the Romanian Border Police, the permits for our teams and boats to perform these swims.

We treated the swims as two independent efforts, with no dependency or link one to the other (crew & boats independent).

The swim started at Bazias, boat ramp, near the church at Danube landmark kilometer 1073.

On the boat present: the 2 observers + assistants Dragos Radut and Mirel Micu. Land support by car: Leontin Mihai, Valentin Mocanu, Calin Sotir.

The water flow was unexpectedly low, we have been told that the water level has been intentionally reduced, probably in the preparation of a rainy period. So the assistance of a current was lower than annual statistics (I est. about 1kmh less).

The strategy was to reach the start of the previous swimmers, Pojejena, in a good shape “just at the end of the warm-up”, after some 15-20 kilometers. By the time I reached Pojejena, I was more than just warmed up and felt the size of what was about to happen/ feel.

There was a lot of wind, the water moved in all places and for the first time in my swimming life I was facing a barge. That’s an impressive meeting ..!

The swim continued well and I swam near different land marks such as “Baba Caia” a cliff that stands above the water, in the middle of Danube and then saw the “Golubac Fortress”, on the Serbian side.

One hour before Berzeasca, we changed the goggles and used the flickering lights for night visibility.

When we reached the Berzeasca City Golf, the crew changed. The skipper Dragos Radut and the assistant Mirel Micu switched with the skipper Valentin Mocanu and the assistants Leontin Mihai and Calin Sotir. Observers remained on boat.

The swim went well at night.

At one point we met the Border Police and had a funny moment, when a police officer asked if we can communicate what is the activity we perform at that time. And I answered “swimming” 😊 which seemed to clarify the topic, if not already clear what I was doing.

Next, Valentin whistled that I should move a bit further on the right.

He was having its light on a moving metal wall (close to us), which I later found out was a barge, that appeared out of the blue. (it is worth mentioning our boat had navigation and sonar)

Later (2-4 AM) we got in the area of the town of Donji Milanovac.

This is a very strange place to be at, swimming during night, because the width of the water expands 2-3 times, the water dynamic changes drastically – at first you feel like not swimming at all. It felt like I was looking at the same lights for 1hr. Later, the wind was lateral and water current came from the gulf of the Donji Milanovac town, very strong, that was pushing the swimmer and the boat towards the land and not allowing a straight progress. I pushed a lot there, refused to eat and continue swimming till we get out of it.

Once we are out of it, we continue in a straight line until sunrise, at the entry in the “Big Boilers”.

In the Big Boilers we meet one single inflatable small boat, with one fisherman. It is our surprise that we are next to him, he stops and suddenly he shouts “Good luck, Bogdan!!” )

The next swim is in Small Boilers, where we see the Decebalus Rex, Dacian king, figure sculpted in the mountain. We meet our dear ones, that come with a second boat to cheer and the assistants switch for the 2^nd^ time, entering the last shift.

At this time, I am very ok with my swim, with my condition, I feel physically and mentally strong and this will remain until the end.

In the last part of 6 hours, between Eselnita locality and Orsova town, I got a lot of boat traffic. These boats don’t have a lower speed gear and they don’t react to the crew’s indication to reduce the speed. The boat captain, Mirel, is trying to protect my integrity by placing the boat between me and every other recreational boat that seems to be heading towards me. The waves cannot be avoided.

I think here I make a mistake, because I start refusing to eat, I am thinking of all the people that wait for me, I take only few to zero fueling and at times I sprint towards the end, with all the energy in the tank. Next time I’ll be wiser

There is no observed water current, I take the last turn to Orsova and I feel like my energy is drained.

I am greeted by all my friends and family present there, about 30 people, and I take my time on the boat ramp to recover my strength. I needed also a perfusion of glucose and vitamin B’s to regain my strength, I had nausea probably because I got on a vertical position and before the finish I sprinted, not needing too.

I have finished 120 swum kilometers, under 29 hour, with very small current and set a new “national record” as the longest swum distance.


Click to enlarge.


Misc. Footage





Timestamped web-based weather observations: View