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Thursday, September 19, 2013
One False Move By Ned Denison Across The Bay
He was the fifth person in history to cross False Bay from Rooi Els to Miller's point in 11 hours 5 minutes under the guidance of escort pilot Arend Grondman.
"I enjoy a blessing and a curse through my friendship with Kevin Murphy. The blessing includes an insight into his incredible global marathon career. The curse delivers suggested swims that I should tackle – none looking easy.
So Kevin planted the False Bay - home of the great white sharks - seed, one of the few swims he attempted but did not complete. I heard more, when I served on the Santa Barbara Channel Board, from Carina Bruwer, the fourth swimmer to complete this swim.
False Bay never really featured on my long wish list until May 2011 when I tied the speed record for the swim around Cape Point with the last 6 km in False Bay. Fast forward eighteen months and looking for a holiday swim. I could accept (just) Steve Redmond charging ahead with Oceans Seven. But Eddie Irwin beat me to the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming and I wanted to beat him and the other local marathoners back behind me (which of course will not work) by doing something big and gnarly...! Finally, we all have a shark fear so the mental challenge was a big part of my choice. I never rated my mental toughness in most of the previous marathon swims – so time to put it to a big test.
I called my friend living on False Bay: channel swimmer and waterman Hugh Tucker. The hospitality in Cape Town the year before still had me smiling. From that point on, I stopped watching the shark programs on the Discovery Channel. I landed in Cape Town on December 26th to fabulous swim conditions and set a date of the 28th. Within minutes, the wind picked up and we faced the first delay. Cape Town produces fine marathon swimmers, many with an eye to the False Bay swim. They hesitate for three reasons. Firstly, the 400 square mile bay contains 200,000 seals and 200 great white sharks. Most weeks, the “shark spotter organisation” closes a beach until the danger passes and several times a year a human attack occurs. Secondly, the water temperature moves from 9° to 20°C pretty quickly. Thirdly, the winds from the South Atlantic come up quickly and strongly. Some local swimmers wait more than a decade for the perfect day.
I took advantage of the delay to get re-acquainted with False Bay. I did a 4 km swim on the 27th – alone. I returned again on the 28th and did a 6 km swim: half alone and half with Linda Clarke, a super swimmer on holiday from Dublin. My head nearly exploded with constant shark fears and visions – in hindsight I got them out of my system.
My trip afforded me an 11-day swim window. I might not get a shot and certainly not a perfect day. My pilot Arend and I spoke daily and he monitored the conditions. The 29th looked likely and then the forecasts started to favour the 4th. Arend made the call on the 29th that the 30th looked possible – but he had one more call to make. He reported back that the “shark spotter organisation” recommended that no swimmer ever attempt the swim. I told him we knew this already and agreed the 30th. I arranged for Arend and his boat (and of course Hugh who crewed three times for me in 2011) and Keith with a second “shark spotter” boat. I offered to pay more for a “shark stopper”.
On the evening of the 29th a third crew, with a boat, volunteered to help, bringing two English Channel aspirants who would do some escort swimming. We met at 6 am in the dark and I was delighted that Peter Bales was also coming. Peter is the Chairman of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association, an English Channel swimmer, had been on the previous four successful swims and was Kevin Muphy’s False Bay swimming partner on the long ago attempt.
We motored across the bay in calm seas and I set off.
This would be the swim that most depended on mental toughness. From my training swims in False Bay (without a crew) I moved to 3 safety boats, a pilot (Arend) who I used twice before, Hugh who crewed my three swims in 2011, Peter who crewed all 4 previous successful False Bay swims, a shark shield (pulsing wire in the water) and 5 others. I felt safe and secure with a boat on each side and one behind. I trusted my team. My mind was occupied with the NORMAL physical and mental part of a 20-mile swim into worsening conditions. Arend had warned me that it would “freshen up” later in the day. Only seven times - for about 15 seconds each - did I get a shark thought in the next 11 hours:
* Several crew pointed to something (in the distance)
* Within minutes of starting I swam into a thick kelp stalk
* My foot hit a substantial object
For these three, I didn’t look and got my head back into the swim quickly.
Arend’s boat seemingly hit something BIG, veered dramatically to the right, the crew nearly fell over and it needed to be replaced on my right by another boat. I later found out that the steering bolt shattered – but it could have hit a big shark!
Arend put an extension pole on a big fish gaff. I later found out he used it to steer.
The crew tapping on the shark shield, pulling it up and replacing the batteries.
The final time I noticed at least 20 seals - shark’s normal food - within 15 feet of me at a feed stop. I tried to imagine a full table of delicious Christmas foods....with that horrible pickled onion dish that NOBODY in my family ever touched. I thought of myself as that dish. In the sport we know that some of the marathon swims are 80% mental, once you have correctly prepared physically. False Bay was maybe 95%... and I was really happy with my mental toughness for a change.
I have very few other memories of the first six hours. Arend later told me that I was fighting a current for the first half.
I remember vividly when it all changed - “freshened up”. The swim so far was calm and warm – only moderate glory in that. Now the wind increased to 17 knots – gusting to 22 knots from my left and the water temperature was dropping 5°C (9°F) in pockets. It gave the water a formidable “texture”. Normally this is where my head would go, I’d slow and all but cry for my Mommy.
I could imagine Roger Finch phoning Arend from Johannesburg and emailing the news to Owen O’Keefe in Cork who would be posting to the web. I knew that the Cape swimmers would be following and being the 30th of December I would be the only open water news for the northern hemisphere swimmers. I could imagine the shiver going up the backs of monitoring marathon swimming friends. I have been on the end of such reports myself in the past – you just groan at the thought of conditions deteriorating in the last part of the swim.
It helped to motivate me.
This was the first of my nine big marathons (more than 16 miles/25 km) where I got tougher in the second half. A few months earlier in the Catalina swim I “mentally enjoyed” a jellyfish sting – now I enjoyed ploughing through the waves. I didn’t have a single physical pain or throw up – another first.
Then Hugh gave me the best news: one more feed. I did the math; I was drinking 400 ml of carbo drink every 30 minutes, less than an hour. With a poor history of mentally and physically “limping home” – I actually picked by my pace.
After 11 hours and 5 minutes, a group greeted me at the end and walked to Arend’s boat club for a long shower, drinks at the bar and a sausage off the grill. I enjoyed Kevin Murphy’s induction speech to a thousand guests at the International Swimming Hall of Fame years earlier: “I don’t enjoy the swims – but I sure like having accomplished them.” Maybe I found a better way: I enjoyed the swim and the accomplishment slowly started to hit as my phone, email and Facebook lit up.
The morning papers carried the news along with a picture of a great white taking a seal – a few miles away while I was swimming. Very cool to see while having coffee – sporting the evidence of a long swim (see picture on left).
The best came days later when I met Hugh, Fran and Andy for breakfast. Hugh said, “The conditions were tough, wind up to 40 km/h and swell at 4 meters. Lots of seals that can look like sharks to a swimmer. I have been on about 250 swims and this rates as number one with Andy Pfaff’s English Channel swim.”
Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming
2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE
The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.
The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.
The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.
Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.
The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.
"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."
Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."
The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme
Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]
Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland
Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance
Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony
Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute
The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:
* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year
For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:
* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference
Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Swim Across the English Channel...
Who else is looking for a qualified open water swimming coach to help them swim across the English Channel?Chloë McCardel is a 6-time English Channel Swimmer who inspires and instructs. Access featured content by Chloë in this month's issue of the Open Water Swimming Magazine. Published monthly by WOWSA, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a digital, interactive publication made available exclusively to WOWSA members. See what you've been missing! Become a WOWSA member today!
Open Water Swimming Magazine
Open Water Swimming MagazineThe Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.
WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...
The Other Shore
The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.
2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac
An Almanac for Open Water SwimmingAn almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.
This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.
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The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.