Walter's swim career began at age 50. He swam halfway across Lake Michigan in The Jim Moran lake Michigan Swim, from Chicago to Benton Harbor. Swimming 30 miles was not bad, considering only 18 people in the world qualified for the swim and it was Walter's first.


Attempt from Nassau to Miami swam 50 miles, the shark cage collapsed and the swim terminated.


Walter pulled a rowboat with two people in it, six miles in three hours and five minutes, breaking the record of a boy that swam it freestyle. Gull Lake, Michigan.


Walter towed two rowboats with a ton of people in them for three miles in one and a half hours. Columbus, Ohio.


Awarded the title of the "World's Strongest Endurance Swimmer" by Joe Grossman of the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation.
  • Presented a trophy by Governor James Rodes of Ohio
  • Received a letter of congratulations from Buck Dawson, Executive Director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame


He defeated a record holder long distance swimmer. After pulling rowboats for three hours, the one that could go 25 feet ahead of the other was declared the winner; Walter sprinted 75 feet to victory. Miami, Florida.


Walter pulled a 28-ton, forty-seven foot yacht for about 20 feet against the current and wind. This was front page of The Miami News. Miami, Florida.


He pulled a 15-ton steamboat for one and a half miles into the wind. Gull Lake, Michigan.
  • This received AP and UPI coverage
  • This earned him an appearance on To Tell The Truth


Walter swam from Baker’s Haulover in Miami to the Bahia Mar in Fort Lauderdale, approximately 20 miles


Walter swam 90.75 miles in 21 hours 18 minutes on June 27—28, through shark-infested waters in the Gulf Stream of The Florida Straits, setting a world record. "Swim of the Century."
  • Received a plaque and written recognition from the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the co-sponsor of the swim.
  • He was acknowledged by the World Professional Marathon Swim Federation for the world record.
  • Borden Burgers, the sponsor, presented him with a trophy.
  • Guinness Book of World Records 1974-1976
  • Received Proclamation and a Citation from Governor Rhodes and Governor Gilligan of Ohio.


He towed a 34-foot houseboat for more than two miles, for two consecutive days consecutively. There were more than 10,000 spectators. Jenny Wiley Lake, Kentucky.


He towed a boat throughout the day in Athens, Ohio, for the American Heart Association, alternating kids in the boat with officials from the Heart Association. Athens, Ohio.


He towed a rowboat across a quarry while an oarsman rowed in the opposite direction. Columbus, Ohio.


He towed a 7,000- pound boat for a mile with his hands and feet shackled. Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
  • Rreceived a plaque from Buck Dawson on behalf of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
  • Received a letter of congratulations from former Governor Rhodes.


He swam 122 ½ miles in 27 hours and 8 minutes, setting a new world record from about 30 miles out from Marathon, Florida, in the Gulf Stream to Duck Key, Florida. "Bicentennial Swim."
  • Received a plaque from the International Swimming Hall of Fane
  • Received a plaque from the National Association of Professional Swimmers
  • Guinness Book of World Records 1977-1979
  • Documented in The International Dictionary of Sports and Games, by J. A. Cuddon


Walter towed five rowboats filled with people for one mile with his hands and feet shackled.


Walter swam from Cuba to Florida beginning on July 11, 1978, and ending on July 13, at Little Duck Key, Florida; a distance of 128.8 miles in 34 hours 15 minutes. "Swim for Peace."
  • Personal approval and sendoff from Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro
  • Letter of congratulations received from James Counsilman, Swimming Coach and Founding President of the International Swimming Hall of Fame
  • Letter from Senator Edward Kennedy
  • Letter from The White House
  • Governor Askew of Florida
  • Lt. Governor Celeste of Ohio
  • Mayor Michael Brandt of Grove City, Ohio
  • Grove City City Council
  • Frank Elm, Olympic Swim Coach—1968-1980
  • Citation from the International Federation of Professional Ocean Swimmers and Divers
  • Guinness Book of World Records 1980-2000


Walter towed a 30-ton ferryboat up the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio, for more than 250 feet with hands and feet tied, then turned the boat, towing it within 100 feet of the dam; and turned the boat and towed it back up stream and docked. The boat was loaded with 63 passengers, a Dixieland Band and Columbus Zoo Director Jack Hanna, who brought various animals aboard.
  • This was documented and shown by the television program — That’s Incredible
2017 Walter Poenisch being named to the ISHOF Class of 2017

read the pdf here.