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The Cape Long Distance Swimming Association is dedicated to offering information and news on open water swimming around Cape Town, with particular focus on solo swims in the sea.
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THE

CLDSA Newsletter

24

 

In this month's issue, we'll take a look at what's been happening in the open water swimming community. But I need your input, your stories and photo's to add to our letter, I'm no writer simply a swimmer!

So starting us off are Kerry and JP with there swim stories. 

By Kerry Kopke


Robben Island crossing 2.0 
 
5:30am. I am on my balcony sipping my coffee and staring hopefully out as the dark fog slowly envelopes the buildings towards the bottom end of Vredehoek. It looks menacing and a part of me hopes that today’s RobbenIsland crossing (swimming 7.4 km open water from Robben Island-to-Big Bay, Blouberg) is called off. Self-doubt about my strength and fitness creeps in as well as questions about my level of sanity at attempting this gruelling physical challenge again. I have already “done it before” (as everyone pointed out to me) and therefore should be able to do it again but I am not feeling very sure of myself.
 
6:30am.I arrive at the Oceana Yacht Club at the Waterfront to meet my crew. My formidable swimming buddy, Felicity (known as Lippy to her friends), and her devoted husband, Gary, soon pull up. Gary is usually loud, smiling and full of jokes but now he is quiet and very serious. But his nervous energy somehow calms me down because at least there is some-one in a worse state than me. Soon our skipper, Craig, and his glamourous wife, Sue, arrive with their boat and there is no talk about postponement. This is really happening. The Torrs launch the boat effortlessly and we are all in.
 
7:30am. We arrive at Robben Island and the familiar rusted jetty from my first crossing greets me. There are a number of boats nearby fishing apparently for yellow tail and my heart sinks. Fish = food = seals = sharks. Forget six degrees of Kevin Bacon, for me everything is less than six degrees of sharks. It’s not my fault that my mind goes immediately to sharks because the first question from every person that I talk to about open water sea swimming is “what about sharks”. As if I have never contemplated them every single time I see a huge, black piece of kelp innocently floating below me or touch a piece of seaweed. Lippy and I slip off the boat into the balmy 16 degree water and crawl over mushy kelp onto Robben Island waiving at the crew before we start.
 
8:30am. Lippy and I are setting a good, solid pace together and I am feeling strong. In fact, I am rather enjoying myself swimming in such good conditions. I love swimming. It has been a completely new experience for me having a “swimming buddy” to train with and to complete this Robben Island crossing with stroke-for-stroke. In those weak moments when my motivation was slipping there was some-one to push and encourage me. Poor Lippy also had to endure listening to me about my juvenile summer romance dramas. That was probably harder for her than the training.
 
9:30am. I am less in love with swimming and particularly my shoulders are not big fans.  My throat is burning from all the salt water that I have swallowed and my sinuses are on fire. But I keep on swimming. Less than an hour to go and Lippy and I are definitely slowing down. I watch the people on the boat check their cell phones, take pictures of us and throw food into the water (maybe chum)… But I also think about what champions Craig, Sue and Gary are to give up their free time to help us achieve a major goal. Cheering us all the way with their positive energy. They are beyond generous and I’m lucky to be along for the ride with Lippy’s fabulous husband and friends.
 
10:30am We have just crawled out onto the rocks at Big Bay, Blouberg. At our last feed, the boat crew told us to dig deep to push for the goal of a sub-three hour crossing. Lippy sped off and I swam hard to keep up with her digging deep with everything I had. The land fortunately arrived much sooner than I expected and suddenly we were done. Finished and klaar in a spectacular time of 2h54min. This was my second Robben Island crossing and Lippy’s first. It was obviously much more low key for me than my first one but no less meaningful. I had the ridiculously corny thought as I was on the boat back that this second Robben Island crossing could also serve as a metaphor for life. I could do the swim alone well enough (as I had done in my first crossing) but it was even better to have some-one with me to share in the unique experience, supporting me in the hard times, challenging me, sharing in the good times and helping me to achieve my goals.
By Jean-Paul Tostée

A quick story about my first attempt in my birthday month, April (planned for a change)...of the famous Robben Island to Blouberg crossing by naked body apart from budgie smuggler;-).... The only way to swim in the Atlantic.. 
 
My second, Thea VDM, said I should write a story, so blame her and I should do everything a second advises… 
 
Initially I wanted to do the swim on my birthday but we thought we would wait for better conditions, so set out for 2 days later, the 18th of April. Um, those weren't better "water" conditions. Plan was to do it at a water temp above 12 degrees, as that just makes things a little easier for you to get across, but ideally you want +14 degrees. It's a fair way to go at these temps so anything that helps, you want and go for. The annual and official Freedom Day swim does not happen if the water temp is under 12/13degrees (to give you an idea)
 
Unfortunately, for a few weeks conditions were not great including rubbish weather to go with. But I was keen around this time, and so were my swimming team Monika Hayes and Mark De Klerk. In fact, it was on off on off on off, and I learnt this is what you have to go through for an open water swimming challenge..... AND another on off.... for cold open water. On the Friday before the swim I thought it was off as a number of people were attempting this particular week, and on this day, 5 pulled out, with 1 guy hospitalised. 

The waiting game is a bit of a nightmare as you can't be sure if or when it's going to happen. Being my birthday week (thanks Kevin & Lara for postponing your trip to come down to celebrate in the poor weather), I was thinking.... Hmmm..... I think next week looks more appealing. I should be so lucky. Anyway, 6pm Friday eve Mark said we doing it (& Monika was game), as weather looked great and we had been told that it looked likely to be 1 degree warmer than the Friday.... It wasn't....
 
Saturday morning was beautiful. Clear, crisp and calm. Heading out in 2 boats to Robben Island from Oceana we saw 4 Humpback Whales having a good time.... Which means: "Humans don't belong here". They cool but they like the cool, too. We took a temp reading at the island, 11.5. We decided we here, let’s get in. I put more than the usual amount of Vaseline on, as I followed the other experienced swimmers lead :) ....and jumped in... 
 
I was nervous at this temp but had only swum or started re-training in the Atlantic for 2 months, with no other training, so thought that's a good thing and I got a chance... I love this Atlantic water but it was fresh. The water temp for the crossing ranged from 9 to 11.5 degrees with an average of 10.5. The sky was blue, the water was crystal clear and the ocean was calm...... You can say that to yourself and it really was mesmerising, breathtaking mmm & beautiful.....But COLD, ICE COLD. You can't get that out of your head, no matter how hard you try...... well, I couldn't anyway. 
 
Usually, when we swim, we get a "warmer" patch....but on this swim there wasn't one... It was relentless...with no letting up. Heaven and pure hell at the same time. I had lots going through the head initially and the first hour/hour and a half....we swam in sync and it was very special. I knew this is where I want to be and I was actually doing the challenge that I thought about a year ago. I've discovered that swimming in the cold open water ocean is something that gives me a natural high and takes me into another world....which is incredible. And being fortunate enough to swim with Monika and Mark alongside me...just made it that much more uplifting. It was extraordinary. Couldn't have had better swimmers/people next to me in the water. They both know it! I hope you both "enjoyed" it as much as I did... I could go on about this feeling all day.... So, I'll stop now...
 
I’m not used to feeding and prefer not to, so when the first feed arrived at the hour mark, it was too soon and all I could say to my boat crew was “it’s cold…it’s very cold….it’s *%$&* cold”….verbalising it, I don’t think helped. In hindsight, I wished we had only stopped after an hour and a half, as we were going strong. That first feed….messed me up! Hmmm…. We were going strong after 5kms, shortly after, however, the wheels came off for me. Stopping and starting caused me to get even more cold and from 2kms out, I became disorientated and don’t have proper recollection. That’s how quickly I went from swimming OK to not OK, and not knowing really what was going on. Someone shouted out “Only a mile to go!… Come on JP”….. And I was like “What???!!!”…. Only a mile? You kidding me right…. 

Ja, hearing distances and feed stopping, didn’t help…. I eventually found it hard it hard to move and after trying out breaststroke and attempting to piggyback on Mark, I froze 800m out and couldn’t move anymore. I just couldn’t. The boat crew of James Moore, Lloyd Bosworth and Thea vdm were shouting at me as well as Mark in the water, encouraging me to keep moving…. "you’ve made it….you’re here…..come on…keep going"…… Mark stopping me from grabbing the boat (not allowed)…..But I didn’t have it in me… and got pulled onto the boat... Just short of the Big Bay rocks…
 
I was disappointed for a few hours after and really upset I’d come so close…… yet so far…. What if I could have just done more, pushed it that bit further. Actually, I was standing next to Sea Point Pav after a swim on Saturday, looking at the clear water and Robben Island…. Going over in my head, if I could have done it and got across the sand….. But considering everything, and I think for a first timer, I got as far or as close as I could. I believe it was a solid effort and maybe I could have got there if 1 or 2 things were different, nonetheless I was soooo glad we went for it on this day and I will never forget it. It was bitter sweet and thanks Mark for pushing us to do it then. It’s made me more inspired. What a day, what a swim, what a team!
 
Thanks for pushing me so hard at the end Mark and for sticking with me as much as you could. I have already told you, that you are a machine and appreciated everything in your capacity to get me across that sand. Thanks Monica for being my “special” swim buddy and someone I really do cherish in and out of the water. Both of you made the failed attempt so worthwhile, leading up to it and in it…… by the way, no thanks for leaving us in your wake to get out the water Monika! Was that part of our deal? Thanks to my boat crew of James, Lloyd and Thea. James, best skipper ever, even though you almost ran over Mark a few times, I’m told…..and maybe if you had steered more to the right, I could have made it…..kidding :) Lloyd, for best cheerleader ever, a social Friday evening and the occasion made him a bit more nervous and quiet than his usual self. At least he still managed to get my family names right when I had to answer hypothermic questions…. and Thea for best second, photographer and WhatsApp group updater. Thanks for being there right from the beginning T, and helping me get into this in a very strange way. You are all on standby for the next attempt. 
 
This is probably one of the longest, most descriptive accounts of someone who didn't cross the sand and complete the crossing but it was an ordeal…and a monumental ICE challenge of the elements and for myself… that I wanted to share. It was that important and extraordinary….

This is my account one week on…. I am in the process of “growing scales, re-growing a pair, taking ice baths" and just keeping up my Atlantic appearances for now…..
 
I have unfinished business. I have looked at the island since and realized it is RI 1 – JP 0. So, I have to go back out there and finish the job off properly. 
 
Watch this space for JP's successful crossing report....
 

SAFETY INFORMATION

Check out this link that the NSRI produced, very clever:  

 


 
CLICK HERE

ON THE GO.....

We are busy developing the current website into more of an inter-active site. Watch this space.

Update: by now you would have noticed a Facebook logo on the home page.


 

ROBBEN ISLAND "FIRST TIMERS"

Your story together with pictures would be a great have. Please get them to me for publication on our newsletter.


 

CLIFTON 4TH BEACH

This early evening swim has picked up again, so if you fancy a cool down after work, come through to Clifton for a dip! We do have a whatsapp group going, if you want to join it contact Delle Henry.





 
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