“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” – LAOZI
One of my first swims was a real challenge – to swim a mile in 3 degree water (a world first for the ice swimming association). My goal was to collect blankets and food for the underprivileged based on successfully completing this swim. I then swam a Double Robben Island and a route around Cape point to raise funds for children with terminal cancer. This lead to more challenging conquests including swimming the Straits of Gibraltar to raise funds in order to teach underprivileged children how to swim. Swimming across the English Channel from Dover to France was to be my biggest challenge to date and after 2 years of brutal training and astronomical costs the time had come to face ‘Summit H20’. Swimming the English Channel was no small feat – 13.5 degree water, a swarm of jelly fish and wayward currents prevented me from finishing. The death of a fellow swimmer that day makes me thank God I swallowed my pride and accepted defeat.In 2015, I decided to face my nemesis again. After almost 5 years of open water swimming, this year I was going to attempt my 2nd English Channel swim. It was with this swim that “I FOUND MY WHY”. All that got me through those 15 hours was swimming from feed to feed,
the completely overwhelming support of my community and from all over the world via social media, my team who were with me every second encouraging me, lying to me, pushing me and looking after me. My belly flop on French soil was a feeling I will never forget. Emotions overwhelm me every time I speak of the experience. Everyone has an English Channel crossing in their lives – a challenge that seems too huge to face. Something that has no odds it its favour when it comes to success. We need to understand that facing it and attempting to conquer it is the only way to get through it. The word ‘humble’ holds new meaning to me. The Urban Dictionary defines ‘humble’ as “An admirable quality that not many people possess. It means that a person may have accomplished a lot, or be a lot but doesn’t feel it is necessary to advertise or brag about it”. I defined it as an epic epiphany in the face of a challenge I completed against all odds. It showed me that the most important things are the simplest, the ones that can’t be bought, the ones that are not flashy or particularly impressive and they require consistent love and hard work. My WHY is to love and put my family first – to live in the ‘present’ with them and enjoy every moment of my children growing up. To leave them a legacy they can be proud of and to make my greatest achievement the pride they have in me and me in them.
With the Straits of Gibraltar and English Channel crossings under my belt, I have decided to take on a huge life challenge and dedicate the next 3 years to the legacy I want to leave. My 3 year challenge begins with 2 years of constant, solid training in order to prepare me to face the biggest achievement Open Water swimming has to offer – ‘Ocean’s Seven’. Of the seven open water swims that make up this challenge, I have completed 2 (Straights of Gibraltar and the English Channel crossing).
The ‘Ocean’s Seven’ Challenge in a nutshell by Wikipedia –
Ocean’s Seven consists of seven long-distance open-water swims, and is considered the marathon swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits mountaineering challenge. It includes the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar. Stephen Redmond of Ireland was the first person ever to complete all seven swims. Since then, five others have completed the septuplet: Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden), Michelle Macy (United States), Darren Miller (United States) Adam Walker (United Kingdom) and Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand).
In 2017 I will attempt to successfully complete the Catalina channel swim, situated off the coast of California in the USA. Following this challenge, I will face the Molokai Channel off the Island of Hawaii. This will be defined as the first gruelling leg of completing these momentous swims. In 2018 I will attempt Cook Strait situated between the North and South Islands of New Zealand followed by Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido of Northern Japan. The Tsugaru Strait connects the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean.
In 2019, the final leg, I will face the North Channel which is the strait between North East Ireland and South West Scotland. ‘MY WHY’ (My children and my wife) will be joining me on this once in a lifetime journey. My children will travel and live around the world, gaining invaluable life experience. I could never do this without them. In addition to this, I will dedicate each swim I face to a needy cause within the country I am swimming in as a token of gratitude for their hospitality – A small offer of thanks for allowing me to live this dream.
Words to myself…and to all those inspired to be great.
NEVER EVER GIVE UP! WHAT DOES NOT KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER! No matter what you have gone through in your life or what you are currently going through – you have the opportunity to grow from it.
Reflection is the key to never making the same mistake again.
These words have helped me get through my toughest times both personally and on a business level.
I will live by them for the next 5 years.
- Double Robben Island 15km (Natalie: Circle of Love Foundation)
- Straits of Gibraltar: Spain to Africa 18 km (The Waves of Change Program)
- Double Alcatraz San Francisco 2013
- 36km English Channel 2013 (failed attempt)
- Cape Point 8,5km 2014
- 36km English Channel 2015 ( 14 hours 47 minutes)
- 25 Robben Island TO Big Bay crossings 7,5 KM
- Robben Island to 3 Anchor Bay 11,2km
- South African Ice Swimming Championship 1km in sub 5 Deg 2015
I began open water swimming in 2009. The freedom, connection with nature and pure challenge associated with it had me right from the start – I was hooked. It has become the catalyst for the rest of the challenges I face, the drive I developed for swimming seeped into all the other areas of my life – career, family and personal goals. The way in which I began to face these aspects was the way in which I had learned to face my swimming challenges – with passion, unwavering determination and maximum positivity. Open water swimming has taught me that it does not matter how old or young or you are, nothing is impossible and whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve – if you want it badly enough!
It does not matter about the position or situation you are within your life – as long as you never give up and carry on moving forward, you will eventually get through it – like any strong current. You have to push your own boundaries in order to grow and learn. To do that, you need to keep asking questions and strive to grow on a daily basis. If you stay within your comfort zone you will never grow or experience life at its fullest. Open water swimming has taught me to live & embrace the ‘moment’, to be thankful and humble for what I have. Open Water swimming has led me to find ‘MY WHY’.