Robben Island: bucket list tick

5th November 2020, 14 Embarkers left Granger Bay Boat Club and headed to Robben Island to attempt the 7.5km swim from the island to Blouberg beach.

Here is one of the athletes, Greg Sarharin's, experience of the crossing.


Crossing off “the Crossing”

The Robben Island Swim Crossing was something that had been on my radar since first hearing of the Freedom swim last year. I believed I had the distance in me, but my main concerns were the cold temperatures and being uncomfortable in the open ocean (never quite knowing what lies beneath), the swells and choppy waters.
After becoming aware of the Embark Robben Island Crossing programme, some short consideration and a phone call with Nicol, I signed up quickly with nervous excitement. It was great to have a specific goal to work towards and to be tracked and held accountable for the training. I also recognise the value in taking on a challenge outside of my comfort zone.
Nicol was awesome and quickly got me set up on their group and training programme. I liked that I could join for the sessions I wanted (like the ocean and canal swims) and that I could do some of the sessions by myself in the pool when it suited me.
The programme started off relatively easy at first, concentrating mostly on frequent cold and open water swims, and ramped up manageably throughout the 13 weeks. The group ocean swims were initially daunting for me, but the group was reassuring and after 2 or 3 sea swims I felt far more comfortable in the ocean.
As many may know, after a long swim you get a similar feeling to that of runner’s high and even at the most difficult part of the training it was still a manageable load on the body. It was tiring (and you burn what feels like a million calories each swim), but it doesn’t take the same toll on your body as something like marathon training does. Doing the training in the colder months, I found that it was often more of mental challenge to put on a wet wetsuit and get back in the cold water.
The highlight of the training was the long, boat-supported, tide-assisted swim in Langebaan. It was definitely the most epic swim I have ever done with beautifully flat and warm (or rather less cold) water.
The morning of the Crossing starts with the nervous anticipation of a big effort, but also ultimate confidence in the preparation. As is so often the case, once you get going, you’re able to finally forget about the nerves and just do what you know best. This is when all the tireless preparation pays off and you push through, regardless of your relative strength or speed. Walking out on the Big Bay beach is such an awesome feeling, an unforgettable moment that all 14 of our group members were able to share and celebrate together after.
It is an epic experience, made all the more achievable (and comfortable) by our amazing and supportive coach, Nicol. I highly recommend taking on this challenge!


If you would like to join our next Robben Island crossing program, it will start on the 7 Dec 2020. We will aim to do the crossing on the first great day in March 2021. The program is R450p/m, which includes coached group sessions . If you would like more information or to sign up for the program click here.



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