I write this knowing that all of us are feeling raw and vulnerable, thinking it could have been us out there on Tuesday afternoon. We all either fish, surf, body board, paddle, surf-ski, spearfish, scuba dive, lifesave, swim or all of the above in the bay. We love the sea and that’s why we live here.
I was asked to write an article about my sport, which is swimming, both in the pool and out there in the deep blue. I have swum the 12 kilometres from Simon’s Town to Muizenberg , the Simon’s Town mile every six months and from Simon’s Town to Glencairn . None of these events are held any more. The Fish Hoek mile is in a completely different guise to what it was and there’s more running than swimming now.
The first question I get asked whenever people hear that I do long distance swimming has got nothing to do with my ability or the cold water that I spend time in, but about the sharks. So for the record, yes, I am scared of sharks but no, it won’t stop me from spending time in the sea.
So back to my sport. In 2009 I swam from Robben Island to the mainland three times. The first one was on New Years Day – what a magnificent way to start the year. The second was the Vista Nova Robben Island swim, an incredible event that had over 200 competitors. It raises desperately needed funds for the school apart from being the premier open water event of the season. This year they had more than 200 competitors, some in wetsuits and others (like me) swimming according to English Channel rules in a costume and cap. I was the second women home (after Natalie du Toit) which I was very proud of, but the real heroes are the swimmers who come in last because the real test is to survive that icy cold. It was about 13 degrees centigrade that day. The last swim of the year for me from Robben Island was a spur of the moment one in December and a first for me, from RI to Three Anchor Bay. I had perfect conditions and broke the woman’s record which was more than 20 years old, and held by a woman more than half my age.
I am telling you all this, why? My friend Hugh Tucker, who is one of many larger than life characters who live in the South (and with a successful English Channel crossing under his belt) has a couple of very quotable (and some unrepeatable) sayings. The one I always remember though is this: “On a long swim for the first few kilometres I hope that a shark doesn’t take me and for the rest of the swim, I hope one does”.
And that’s the point I am trying to make. Don’t let fear ever stop you from reaching your dreams. I think it is what limits most of us from reaching our potential. I have at the age of fifty had one of the most rewarding years of my life and if I had let my fears stand in my way none of it would have happened. I am married to a statistician and he tells me that your odds are still good in the sea. So all the people of the south, don’t be stupid, but get back in the water and reach your dreams.
Written by Liz Webb