A craze has taken South Africa and the world by storm and athletes are taking it in their stride.
SwimRun, an adventure sport that combines swimming and running in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, began in Sweden eight years ago and now boasts 450 events around the world, including one here in the Western Cape.
Adventure junkies are in for a real treat when the next Torpedo SwimRun takes place over two days next month in the Wilderness.
The new entry on the adventure sports calendar has grown exponentially since the first two events took place in the icy waters of Cape Town last month.
In the first event, 85 teams of two competed and, by the time the second SwimRun came around, 120 teams had signed up for the adventure. This year’s event will host 200 teams.
Director Richard McMartin said the event was great fun and much easier than it looked. “You just need to be fit. It’s very achievable for all-round athletes. The biggest challenge is the cold Atlantic Ocean. Even Iron Men have said this is harder.”
Brand designer Rob Wright said the Torpedo event was the first in Africa and there were plans to take the fun to KZN and Gauteng.
In Sweden, the event is known as Otilla and competitors are put through a gruelling 78km course with up to 50 transitions from swimming to running and running to swimming.
Here at home, the event is less taxing on the human body, with the longest swim being from Llandudno to Bakoven and even running with a wetsuit, according to event organisers, “is not so bad”.
Swimmers are allowed to use devices that can make them glide through the water but the trick is to carry all that you use and this can take its toll
during the running leg of the course.
The events are open to all over-18s and the only requirement is that you have to be a strong enough swimmer to take on the might of the Atlantic Ocean.
Last year’s co-winner in the women’s race, Linda Detering, was born in Germany and moved to Cape Town six years ago. “I did horse-riding as a sport in Germany, but when I came to Cape Town I just fell in love with the water,” said Detering.
The 2017 SwimRun champion does trail running and life-saving. “When I first competed in the mixed teams event, my partner and I won second place.”
Detering and her partner, Bianca Tarboton, took the top honours in the second event, held in Cape Town in October.
“It helps that you know your partner well. I am a better swimmer, but Bianca is a better runner so we encourage each other along the route. Some teams even tie ropes around each other to make sure their partners stay at their side,” said Detering.
This year’s prize money is also a testament to how the sport has grown. Detering recalls how she and Tarbaton won R5 000 in 2017, but this year there is combined prize of R100 000 for the men’s and women’s teams.
“For me, it’s not about the money and I think for many of the other competitors it’s the same. We get to swim along our country’s amazing coastline,” said Detering.
Her sentiments were shared by McMartin, who said participants in the SwimRun “experience nature at its best”.
“People finish the events elated. There is no collapsing, just absolute elation. They get to see the world under water. There is a shipwreck, the Antipolis, between Oudekraal and Cosy Bay and it’s awesome to swim over,” said McMartin.
Safety is a top priority at these events, with organisers saying they rope in local lifesaving clubs, local safety experts, the NSRI, medical professionals and a safety crew of 82 people on the water at every event.
McMartin said this year’s event was expected to draw former Springbok captain Corné Krige.
You can get more information on this wet and wonderful event on www.torpedoswimrun.com.