Ocean Swimmers of South Africa Shine in Awards Run-Up

It’s no secret that South Africa has some of the best (and wildest) open-water swimmers in the world. The British have the English Channel, but we have the Mozambique (read: shark-infested) Channel, which became a body of water to traverse (or is it traswim) when Thane Williams and Jonno Proudfoot did so in April. That would be some 459 kilometres they traswam in 24 days!

Wowsa Awards South Africa
South African swimming duo Thane Williams and Jonno Proudfoot Source:swimmersdaily.com

Williams and Proudfoots extreme adventure has rightfully been nominated for a Performance of the Year Award by the world’s major open-water swimming association (WOWSA).

Competing against them for the award is another South African, Richard Krugel, who plied the waters around Mallorca. His distance: 276 kilometres over 95 hours in 22 days.

Swimming in the Mediterranean might seem like a walk in the park, so to speak, but Krugel had to endure a few things other than leg cramp and chaffing armpits.

“The unrelenting heat, an injured shoulder on Day One, a stomach virus en route, the constant scourge of jellyfish, the turbulent chop around the peninsulas, unexpected weather patterns, constant wind shifts, powerfully strong oncoming currents, the dodging of tidal flows and impatient cruise liners, and curious marine life made the unexpected the expected on a daily basis.”

The competition for the Performance of the Year Award – there are 12 individuals or teams in all – is as tough as many of the seas they have swum.

Fifty-year-old Frenchman Jacques Tuset, for instance, has been nominated for his attempt – iconic and ‘liberating’ at the same time – to swim away from all the prison islands in the world. So far he’s done Robben Island; Alcatraz; Le Château d’If, Fort Boyard and Fort Royal de Sainte-Marguerite in France; Gorée in Senegal; Spike Island in Ireland; and Australia’s Rottnest Island.

Carina swims Messina Straits
Carina Bruwer

In the category Woman of the Year, one of the nominees is Carina Bruwer-Pugliese, a Cape Town-based flute player and mother of two who was the first woman to swim across False Bay in 2006 and who has kept chalking up open-water achievements since then. The mantra of these swimmers, after all, is ‘If there’s a piece of open water, swim it!’

Cape Town heart surgeon Otto Thaning, meanwhile, is also up for an award, in the men’s category, for being the oldest person, at age 73, to swim the English Channel.

As in the other two categories, the split in nationalities is almost entirely between South Africa, the USA, the UK, Brazil, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and France, with some unusual nominees like Macedonia – proving that even in landlocked countries you can be a water baby.

Otto Thaning
Otto Thaning after his swim across the Channel

Listed as a Briton is South African-born Lewis Pugh (who cites Thaning as an inspiration and friend) who was also nominated in the Performance Award category. Like many of the other swimmers, Pugh swims for a cause, a point highlighted by the California-based WOWSA.

Lewis Pugh
Lewis Pugh before his 7 Seas for 1 Reason challenge. Source: FB

“In his continuous efforts to change the mindsets of policy makers for good,” it said, “Pugh designed, funded, promoted and executed the Swimming the Seven Seas for One Reason campaign. The unprecedented swims in the Mediterranean Sea (10 km), Adriatic Sea (10 km), Aegean Sea (10 km), Black Sea (10 km), Red Sea (10 km), Arabian Sea (10 km) and North Sea (60 km) in 22 days served as a catalyst to creating more Marine Protected Areas.”

Vote for your South African swimmers here (click on the category and you’ll see a Click here to Vote link at the top).

The cutoff date and time for voting is January 1, 2015 at 12:00 am (California time).