Open Water Swimming

Open Water Swimming

Open Water Swimming. Image by Steven Fruitsmaak at en.wikipedia

There are about 6,500 open water swimming events in the world every year. These range from races, open water tournaments, training camps, clinics, and tours; none of which are to be treated as educational toys (distance swimmers need good stamina and body strength. Swimmers who enjoy this particular sport will travel to as many countries as possible to join the events. They have a choice of 158 countries from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, South Africa, and some countries in Asia.

In South Africa, there are several open water swimming events that take place every year.

The Midmar Mile

Far from the exceptional hotels in Port Elizabeth, the Midmar Mile is an open water tournament that is scheduled in February. It is held in Midmar which is in KwaZulu-Natal province. Midmar is about an hour away from Durban and the race takes place at the Midmar Dam. The distance of this open water tournament is 1 mile and one must qualify to join in the main race.

The Midmar Mile is considered to be the country’s most prestigious swimming race. There are 8 events including one for the disabled and seniors. The basic recommendation to join the main swimming event is being able to swim 1600 meter in less than 50 minutes.

The Speedo Ice Swim

The Speedo Ice Swim takes place in July at the New Dam in Fraserburg where the water temperature is negative 8 degrees Celsius to negative 16 degrees Celsius. The distance is one mile and 600 meters at 1,400 meters above sea level.  With the extreme water temperature, only experienced racers and swimmers participate and it is an open water tournament on an invitation-only basis. In short, no walk-ins are allowed because of safety reasons. In addition, the race is limited to only 30 participants.

The record holders in open water ice swimming are Theodore Yach and Ram Barkai and they are expected to take part in the July 2013 event. Nuwe Dam is about 5 hours away from Cape Town and considered to be the coldest part of the African region. Barkai has a personal goal to swim in 5 degree Celsius waters in every continent in the world. He is also the Guinness World Record holder for swimming in Antarctica in 2008.

The Cadiz Freedom Swim

Cape Town’s Robben Island is another venue for an open water swim event called the Cadiz Freedom Swim. It is held in April with a distance of 7.5 kilometers. The water temperature in April is around 13 degrees Celsius. The Cadiz Freedom Swim has 2 categories: solo and team relays. The race starts at Robben Island and ends in Big Bay. As many South Africans are aware, Robben Island is a popular tourist destination because of its historical background. It is also a World Heritage Site and the prison where Nelson Mandela stayed for over 17 years.

The Ocean Racing Series World Championship

The Ocean Racing Series World Championship is a seaside course in Port Elisabeth that covers a distance of 2 kilometers.  This event is part of a 3 day festival known as the Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival and prior to the main championship round, there is an elimination round called the King of Nelson Mandela and the Queen of Nelson Mandela.