On the 2nd March 2015 I received a message for Derrick Frazer saying”Hey Arafat How are you doing? Are you fit?” I happily replied to him stating that I was fit as I was getting ready to swim from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay. After a while he wrote to me back saying “How would you like to swim the Freedom Swim?” This is an extreme 7.5km kilometers (4.7 miles) open water swimming race from Robben Island to Big Bay. It takes place annually close to Freedom Day in South Africa on 27th April which is the date of country’s first democratic elections in 1994. It was when Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, making the end of Apartheid era and the freedom of the people). “I have a free entry for you if you are interested”. I couldn’t wait to answer that I was interested to do the swim and replied back asking him about the boat. He said that I mustn’t worry about the boat and he would sort it out.
On the 9th April all swimmers participating in the Freedom Swim had to come for the briefing, collect their swim numbers and meet their skipper if they hadn’t already met before. When I got there I had to found my skipper – John Pollock and we spoke about how I feed while I’m swimming. I also met some other swimmers from different countries and we were advised that we would be receiving SMS with further information. The day before the swim, we a text notified us that the water was going to be cold!With it being 10-11 degrees, the organizers suggestedthat swimmers should split into relay teams for safety but I knew that I could do a solo swim. Later that evening I received a few calls from different swimmers who asked me to join them but I wanted to think about it first and delayed any decisions. Chris Laubscher then called me who I knew him from swimming together in the Sunday Hot Chocolate Swimming Group and I happily agreed to form a relay team of two with him.
On the day of the swim, Tony Scalabrino kindly drove me to the skipper in Melkbosstrandwhere we waited for the all clear message from the organizers who were waiting for a large fog bank to lift. At around 10:00am the weather looked good and we left for the island as Chris was going to be first in and our change overs were going to be every 20 minutes.
We waited for the swim to start and it took a while to spot Chris amongst all the swimmers. The skipper gave him the direction to head for and soon it was my turn to take over for the next the 20 minutes. I jumped into the water expecting it to be very cold and was surprised to discover it was between 12-13 degrees instead of 10 degrees. Just 30 to 50 meters away from where I was swimming there was a whale which I never saw. When this skipper told me that I had swum next to a whale it was both exciting and scary. While waiting for the changeovers, I ensure that I stayed warm and was surprised at how quickly it was my turn to go in again. It is the strangest feeling I have ever had, the moment when they tell you to jump back in and you don’t want to but then I told myself not to think about getting cold and jumped in. The whole time when I was in the water, I thought of the words Tony told me that every time you swim in the sea you must feel at home and think that is where you belong and keep swimming. This is what made me not give up!
Chris and I swam the last 1km into shore together so that we could finish at the same time and as I ran up the beach Marion and her husband Trevor were waiting for me jumping up and down and as proud as ever along with my swim mates Heid and Dusko who train with me during the week. As a safety precaution, we had to change as quickly as possible and undertake a checkup in the medical room before being allowed back out.When I finished that swim it brought back a lot of memories of my first Robben Island swim in June 2014 where I came out of the water at the same place.
The Freedom Day swim was invaluable in preparing myself for my dream of swimming from Robben Island toThree Anchor Bay– sponsorship permitting.
My thanks go to Tony and Maike as always, John the skipper, Chris my great swim partner on the day and Derrick who contacted me to make this another amazing experience!
Tony, I am a fish!