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Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Unprecedented Lake Malawi Swim By Martin Hobbs

Courtesy of WOWSA, Lake Malawi, Africa.

Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world. Located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, it is one of the most bio-diverse freshwater lakes in the world.

Lake Malawi has been crossed widthwise in a 25 km course by Dr. Otto Thaning and Lewis Pugh in 1992, Abigail Thomson in 2010, and Milko van Gool and Kaitlin Harthoorn in 2013. A group of Madswimmers led by Jean Craven and including Greig Bannatype, Robert Dunford, Samantha Whelpton, Duncan Kukard, Michiel le Roux, Craig Massey-Hicks, Brent Massey-Hicks, Robert Logan, Karen Graaff, Melanie Bedford-shaw, Nick Comana, Shirley Milne, Nena Logan, Douglas Livingstone, Haydon Von Maltitz, Alison Hartley, Cara Gough, Deon van Niekerk, Jessica Comana, Candice Wadey, Jacqueline Marshall, Charlie Luckock, Darren Madgewick, Michelle Walford, Keiman O'Flaherty, Kobie Odendaal, Werner Whelpton, and Travis Johnson completed a 25 km tandem relay in 2016 [see video below].

Next month, fellow South African swimmer Martin Hobbs will attempt an unprecedented 581 km solo stage swim of Lake Malawi, swimming from north to south, the same direction as a major sailing race.

Hobbs explains his goal, "Six years ago, I underwent a spinal fusion operation for fractured discs in my back. This was not only painful but it put an end to my trials biking - something that was very dear to me. This took me to a very low point, it was devastating. Having been an SA Clubman Regional and Nationals champ, I was now told I wouldn't be able to ride again.

Not one to sit around feeling sorry for myself and knowing there were people in worse off situations, I set off to find out what other sports were out there for people recovering from my operation. This is when I was introduced to swimming. Not only was it a very beneficial sport for recovery, but I found it to be just the competitive sport I was looking for.

Not even a year later, my wife and I entered our first Midmar Mile. It's funny to look back at it now, how much we stressed so much about getting to the other side - it took hours of training, carbo loading, and many practice swims to get us there and all the stress wasn't necessary. We finished in great times and we are now both heading for our 6th Midmar year in 2019 and it will be my daughter Jess's second one next year.

In 2018 I completed my first 8 Mile Swim at Midmar. This is what made me wonder, 'What is next?'

I couldn't complete the 16 Mile, my stroke isn't fast enough to finish in the allotted times and I needed a challenge to look forward to.

This brings me to Lake Malawi. It is the longest, straightest length that we could find for an open water swim

He plans to swim 15 km per day beginning in mid-February and lasting through March where he will face crocodiles, hippos, bilharzia and malaria. "Hopefully [my] precautions will be enough. They are definitely not enough of a hindrance though to not swim."

For more information about Hobbs' 581 km stage swim across Lake Malawi that serves as a charity swim for the Smile Foundation, visit here.

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