Having spent ALL of my open water training in the North Sea, the thought of swimming in foreign waters with ‘bigger’ marine life really pushes me out of my comfort zone!
When my South African friend Roger Finch asked me to come down to South Africa and swim from Robben Island (prison to Nelson Mandela for 27 years) to Blouberg Beach in Cape Town. I leapt at the chance. The plan was we would do a two way (approximately 15km) in preparation for an upcoming 24km + swim.
Leading up to the swim, our numbers grew to 3 South African swimmers – Roger Finch, Mark de Klerk and Ryan Stamrood (each of them English Channel swimmers) and myself, to swim side by side. On the morning of the swim, we met up with Roger’s own boat pilot and friend Arend.
We boarded the boat and started making our way towards Robben Island. I was trying to look relaxed amongst these tough South Africans. Along the way, we saw a large dark fin in the water! I visibly started shaking! Roger’s wife Lindsay and Arend the boat pilot were laughing at me. Arend said to Roger “I thought you said she was a tough Kiwi chick”. Mark’s wife Jo agreed with me it must be a Great White! My absolute worst nightmare! Arend turn the boat around to investigate. I’m sure just to settle my nerves. As we got closer, the fin looked massive! However, to my relief it was a big old sun fish! He was beautiful and just happily lolling through the water. After about a minute of us watching him, he swam down into the depths. I started telling myself to calm down! It took a while for this message to reach my shaking hands though!!!
Once near the Island, the four of us made our final preparations. Sunblock, Vaseline to avoid chafing – we don’t want any blood in the water. I also only use Vaseline not an animal product as I don’t want to smell good in the water! Goggles defogged and caps on. Well, did I get a surprise! As I’m originally from New Zealand, the others decided to wear New Zealand swim caps I had given them. Such a lovely show of camaraderie, especially from South Africans!!
About Robben Island.
With the South African boys.