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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Antarctic Circle Ice Challenge: The Goal, Men And Cause

In 1913, the famous explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton ran the recruitment ad shown above.

101 years after this ad, South Africans Toks Viviers, Andrew Chin, Ryan Stramrood, Kieron Palframan, Gavin Pike and Ram Barkai have figuratively signed up.

"Some claim the ad is a myth, who cares?" says Barkai, ever the imaginative and adventurous soul from Cape Town. "The reality is that Sir Shackleton managed to recruit a bunch as described in the ad before his famous Antarctica trip on his ship the Endurance. Maybe this ad and what followed for Shackleton can begin to demonstrate the billion-dollar question we are asked so often: Why?

As Barkai and his band of merry ice swimmers describe, "Man has always been drawn to the raw beauty of nature - to the challenges it presents and to its ultimate power. There is nothing in the world as raw in its beauty as Antarctica. Its deadly beauty with its nature-made art, sculptures, deserts, frozen waves and glaciers. Its vastness and mysteries are beyond the world we know. It’s like an entire new hostile planet.

So imagine – you take a space shuttle to this ‘hostile planet’ – a place even Star Trek never dared venture, and instead of getting dressed in your protective space suit armed with technology and comfort, you rather undress, everything, put on a small brief swimming costume, cover your upper head with a silicon cap, place a pair of goggles on your eyes and the. dive in to the frozen liquid solution they call sea, on this newly discovered hostile planet and go for a swim."

For us, Shackleton was not mad, but just an inspiration and the epitome of the human spirit.

From a mid-winter swim in Lake Zurich in Europe to the Patagonia Extreme Cold Water Challenge at the tip of South America, Barkai and crew have always pushed the boundaries of open water swimming. "On February 21st, we will embark on a long flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there we will take another long haul flight to Ushuaia, deep South into Patagonia, on the Beagle Channel. We have been there before, but on the other side, in Puerto Williams, Chile, where we swam across the Beagle Channel and back. We then headed to set our world first swim at Cape Horn around the Sailors Graveyard. We remember looking at the lights of Ushuaia saying we will be back one day to venture even further south.

From Ushuaia we will join a cruise ship with Quark Express expeditions, travelling all the way down south until we are cross the elusive Antarctic Circle. It took 3 years of correspondence with various shipping companies to find one willing to entertain assisting in our mad endeavour, allow us join onboard and agree to assist with safety and medical requirements. We plan to cross the rough Drake Passage in two days, reach the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and make our way down south to Marguerite Bay where we hope to make our main attempt and set another world record end of February

Their swim is the Antarctic Circle Ice Challenge at the bottom of the world. At the surface, the challenge is simple: a one-mile attempt in this mass of swirling frigid waters. Practically, the logistics, costs and uncertainty of swimming in extreme conditions in an unpredictable open sea are significant obstacles to success. They will swim somewhere near where the ship is anchored, confirming the distance with GPS.

But the organization of the ice swims is complicated. "There are six of us so we will have to split into two or three teams and rotate once the a team has fully recovered. Although we will have a doctor, expedition professionals, zodiac and other support, in terms of ice swimming and enduring these temperatures, we are the experts and we will have to look after each other. No one there understands ice swimming quite like we do."

With Barkai at the helm, the possibility and probability of a safe and successful execution of these grandiose plans is high. Although only three swims have been completed in Antarctica, Barkai claims one of them. In 2002 Lynne Cox was the first to swim in Antarctica at Neko Harbour around 60º South. She swam 1.2 miles in 25 minutes and wrote a book about her journey that inspired the current generation of Antarctic ice swimmers. In 2005 Lewis Pugh followed her footsteps and swam 1 mile in Deception Bay and an additional 1 km further south at around 65º South. In 2008, Barkai completed a 1 km swim in a frozen lake inland Antarctica at 70º South and was awarded with a Guinness World Record for the world’s most Southernly Swim.

"But no one has ever swum a mile south of the Antarctic Circle (66.5622° South)," describes the sextet of hardened adventurers. "The logistics of one swimmer compared to the much larger six swimmers, is exponentially more complicated. Risks are compounded, not just added. The attempt will take place in a bay which never seen a swimmer before. Water temperature in the area will vary between -2ºC to +1ºC. We hope for the ‘warmer’ 1ºC, but we have to prepare ourselves for lower temperatures."

And preparation and planning is what these men do well, extraordinarily well. For every degree difference in the water temperature makes the swim and the recovery that much more difficult. While many ice swims are performed along a shore or in a pool that is carved out of a lake, the South Africans will be swimming in the open sea which brings about different challenges. "There are several possible hazards that we will need to avoid while swimming in the ice waters. One is floating glaciers and pieces of ice in different shapes ands sizes. They float and drift quite fast and constantly drop pieces weighing a ton or two right in our swim route. There are killer whales or orcas - the name we prefer. Thankfully they tend to avoid humans, but we may be not appear very human swimming in the frozen waters for some time.

But there are leopard seals. Leopard seals are large and muscular with a dark grey back and light grey on its stomach. Its throat is whitish with the black spots that give the seal its common name. Leopard seals are predators, feeding mainly on other seals, penguins, fish and krill. Killer whales are the only known natural predators of leopard seals. The leopard seal is bold, powerful and curious. In the water, there is a fine line between curiosity and predatory behavior, and it may 'play' with penguins it does not intend to eat.

And last, but not least, there are plenty of the 15 species of whales cruising around

Like the team of men that survived under the leadership of Sir Shackleton, the team that will attempt the Antarctic Circle Ice Challenge has been together for some time, attempting and completing some extraordinary adventures and extremely tough challenges for many years: Toks Viviers, Andrew Chin, Ryan Stramrood, Kieron Palframan and Ram Barkai.

When Toni Enderli had to withdraw, the team was thrown for a curve. "We needed to replace him with someone experienced, someone hard-core and someone who can handle for 14 days stuck on a ship under hugely stressful conditions, with us.

Since we, usually fund our own adventures, we have to operate on a shoe string budget - flying obscure cheap routes and spending hours and hours in various remote airports. The ship is the dearest part of the trip so we have managed to find two triple-bed rooms on the lower deck right alongside the ship’s engine room. So we needed a sixth swimmer. So we called on Gavin Pike, our sixth member. Gavin is based in Amsterdam with serious swimming credentials. He swam with Andrew and Ram most of the length of the Orange River, has done various long, extreme swims and is a good friend of ours. As world-renowned explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said, 'Choose your expedition partners very carefully. You will hate everything and each other at some stage in the middle of the expedition and if you can't get over it and focus – it may be your life!' We all have been there before and realised how true his words were, and still we are here together heading towards another unknown beautifully mad adventure.

Gavin Pike: “Having pushed myself in extreme water temperatures beyond the threshold of what my mind and body could sustain in the past means that I have huge respect and caution for the task we are undertaking. I am venturing into something that I have yet to prove to myself is possible … yet have to believe I can do it in order to get in and start.

We are embarking on this ice swim in the most extreme temperatures and environment possible so really hopeful of ‘favourable’ conditions to accomplish the challenge. I am loving the cold water preparation and feel exhilarated by the challenge ahead knowing full well that I will be filled with dread at the moment I need to take that plunge in Antarctica

Ryan Stramrood: “The lure of a swimming challenge in Antarctica for me signifies the pinnacle of adventure, as well as the outer limits of ‘extreme’. A swim inside the Antarctic Circle is arguably the next natural progression in my ice swimming career. The stark conflict of the serene, magnificent, tranquil beauty of the place versus the unbelievably hostile and deadly conditions we will endure in the water, make this a very compelling adventure and a frightening challenge for me. Further, to jointly hold the record of a mile swim in both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles is a significant personal driving force.

To do this with some of my very best mates is the cherry on the top

Ram Barkai: “My first visit to Antarctica in 2008 was a true life-changing event. It made such an impact on my life that I knew I would be back again and this time to swim a mile. The combination of the raw beauty of the nature there, the ice, the glaciers the wild life and its vastness, is something I cant describe. No picture, as beautiful as it gets can capture the owe ones feel when in Antarctica. Swimming has always been my true passion, probably more a life style. I always felt better in the water than outside the water and for whatever bizarre reason I find the icy cold water a “comfort”, a very special zone of existence for short periods only that has an amazingly welcome effect on my body and mind. I know it will be a challenge with all the unexpected usual’s thrown at us when we just had enough.

But this is part of it and going into there with my best mates give a huge sense of comfort and anticipation of fun

Kieron Palfrman: “The Antarctic has always intrigued me. From a young age watching national geographic films of this “white ice dessert” I knew I would have to arrange a visit.

Now I have this opportunity to do this and of course to be able to swim there makes it just an awesome experience. I know how tough this will be after experiencing a mile above the Arctic Circle a year ago where I pushed my body to its extreme.

However unpleasant I know it will be worth it in the end when we all come home successful and enriched by the Antarctic’s beauty

Andrew Chin: "Going to Antarctica has always been a dream for me, sitting here now I think maybe I should have left it as a dream. Well, the swim was never really a part of my dream. I am drawn by the beauty of the continent, the sense of adventure and the opportunity to do my final cold-water test. I have done 3 swims of over a kilometre however the coldest I have swum in is 2.5ºC and that was only 8 minutes. The idea of doing the swim is not as bad as the reality of the recovery. I don't look forward to the pain it holds but the endorphins afterwards and the “high” seem to draw me in. I am uncertain about whether I can accomplish a mile or even if I want to. I want to share in the adventure and experience with my “swimming” mates and over come an inner fear that has no place in the real world. This is my final Ice Mile and would like to end at the top, this is my K2.”

Toks Viviers: “I really enjoy cold water swimming and always thought that swimming in Antarctica would be the epic of a cold water swimmers adventure, now I have the opportunity do just that, with a group of great friends .What more can one ask swimming in such an environment."

If any six individuals can achieve their dream, these men can.

Their track record in the English Channel, Alaska, Siberia, Murmansk, Bering Strait, Strait of Gibraltar, Alcatraz, Magellan Strait, Beagle Channel double, Cape Horn, Ice Miles, plenty of Robben Island crossings, the length of the Orange River and many more. More importantly, they all know each other very well and been together through many highs and lows in some hairy situations, always watching over each other.

"Yet, again, we are k………ing ourselves. We know we are heading for another unknown scary experience in a deadly beautiful place. Yet, we have to go, because we just love it," explains Barkai.

But why?

"A common question after the “why are you doing it?” is “for what charity or cause?” It has always been an interesting question. We are all normal people with families, kids, mortgage bonds, and work. This is our passion. Yet, we love the ocean, we love nature and the outdoors and we promote its beauty and the need to care for it in every step of the way – it is after all our second home. It is for this reason that we have two complementing amazing causes we support through our challenges:

One being our new strategic partnership with World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) where we provide a unique platform of exposure for them. SASSI champions the plight of all the oceans’ great inhabitants and educates on the many issues surrounding over-harvesting and consumption choices – it is the natural fit for us.

Our second support cause is very dear to our hearts and our pet project – The SEAL Open Water Swimming Trust that we established several years ago. We come across many causes and issues urgently requiring attention and we try to do our best - from teaching kids and people to swim in remote places, to promote healthy lifestyles and active lifestyles. We talk in schools and other institution and donate all the proceeds to the SEAL Trust. Our Trust support kids requiring assistance in development areas, supports established programs that teach swimming coaches so they in turn are well equipped to go to the development areas and teach kids to swim. And most of all we promote the human spirit and the need to lead healthy, active lifestyle.

Keep it cool, don’t overheat, over-harvest, pollute or steal from our home – the ocean

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

1 comment:

  1. I love it when people come together and share ideas. Great website, keep it up!

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Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


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."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

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 Magazine

The 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 Swimming

An 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.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program