On This Day: How one man managed to tread water for 4 days

·Contributor
·3-min read

Albert Rizzo was a Maltese mayor and auctioneer who achieved a mind-boggling feat of human endurance in 1983 - treading water for 108 hours. 

Rizzo had been encouraged by a local sports promoter, due to his resemblance to his grandfather, an Olympic swimmer. 

Extreme feats of swimming ran in Rizzo’s family: Albert’s first record attempt, which won a place in the Guinness Book of Records in 1980 (for being immersed in open sea for 72 hours) was inspired by his grandfather’s efforts 50 years before. 

Statue of Albert Rizzo
Albert Rizzo trod water for 108 hours unaided

His grandfather, Turu Rizzo, was an Olympic athlete who had made headlines by (almost) swimming across the channel between Malta and Sicily, which he had to abandon with just three miles to go. 

He had also set several records for treading water, and had swum for 68 hours in the open sea, a record which Albert beat in 1980. 

Malta - Mediterranean travel destination, Manoel Island yacht marina and Gzira
Albert Rizzo completed his feat in the sea at Gzira, emerging unaided after 108 hours (Getty)

Turu’s achievement went unrecognised outside Malta, where he’s commemorated by a statue.

Albert Rizzo became the first Maltese person to be featured in the Guinness Book of Records. 

Albert told the Malta Independent, “When my name was included in the Guinness Book of Records for the first time, it was a big satisfaction for me, not only because of having my name in such a world-famous publication, but also because I managed to include my grandfather’s great feat of the 1930s – a feat which had never been recognised officially before..” 

“I still remember that when I got out of the water, there were great shouts of ‘Turu, Turu’ in honour of my grandfather, who deserved much more than the brief mention he had received in the past.”

When he was taken to a local hospital to recuperate an elderly nun told Albert he was not only recovering in the same ward his grandfather had been in, but that he had (by coincidence) begun his swim at the same time as ‘Turu’, 50 years earlier.

Rizzo completed his record breaking feat in the sea at Gzira in Malta, eating only liquid food and with Guinness Book of Records staff checking that he was not touching the bottom. 

Before attempting his feat, he was covered head-to-toe in Ederma cream. 

He admitted that he had gone against the advice of his doctors and eaten, wolfing down a bowl of pasta before entering the water. 

He repeated his effort in 1983 after an Indian swimmer beat his record, taking the time up to 79 hours. 

In 1984, he extended his record to 132 hours. 

In 1986, the Guinness Book of Records decided to remove records for treating water, due to the danger faced by people attempting them. 

Rizzo went on to be mayor of Gzira, and was standing as a candidate in Malta’s general election when he died in 2008 aged 60. 

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