About Us

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The Cape Long Distance Swimming Association

The CLDSA is an association established for the benefit of its members connected by our love of open water swimming and in particular sea swimming.

Our purpose is (1) to facilitate, celebrate and act as the custodian of your ultimate swimming achievement and (2) develop an inclusive open-water swimming community.

Our objectives

Authenticate and record-keep long-distance swims in the Western Cape

Recognise and celebrate the achievements of our members

Highlight Cape Town as an open-water swimming destination

Act as an information resource for long-distance, open-water swimming in the Western Cape

Network with local and international open-water swimming organisations

Promote and encourage long-distance, open-water swimming in general

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At the CLDSA, one of our most important objectives is to encourage transformation within the open water swimming community.

We aim to achieve this by following a strategy that is multidimensional and focused on changing demographic profiles in open water swimming, ensuring equitable access and resource availability, skill and capability development and extensive community involvement.

Our history

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a Robben Island crossing is a walk in the park!

It is exactly the opposite. Despite Ryan Stramrood’s 116 (and counting) swims, the crossing is internationally rated as a difficult open-water sea swim. It may be short, but with icy seas averaging 12-degrees Celsius, treacherous currents and mercurial conditions, it earns its reputation for being one of the finest training grounds in the world for English Channel swim hopefuls.

People have been eyeing that brooding island since way back, but actually swimming that gap had always been deemed foolhardy, if not impossible. Until 1909, when the skinny-built, but gritty Henry Charteris Hooper became the first person to successfully swim from Robben Island to Roggebaai, accompanied by a whaleboat with two experienced harpoonists on board. Capetonians could not believe his feat. When the first woman, 15-year-old Peggy Duncan swam the crossing 17 years later in 1926, 30 000 Capetonians lined the Old Pier and Roggebaai Beach to welcome her in. She completed the distance in 9 hours and 30 minutes!

In the late 1960s, Peter Bales and two friends formed the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA)

The association was formed to officiate and record Robben Island swims. Peter Bales has officiated hundreds of swims since then, as have Tony Scalabrino and Barry Cutler and Alon Kowen, who have navigated the shortest and safest passage to land for hundreds of Table Bay swimmers.

In addition to the iconic Robben Island crossing swim, the list of official CLDSA swims has rapidly expanded to include the Cape Point swim, False Bay crossing, the Atlantic seaboard and even up the West Coast. The expansion of new swim routes is parallel to the rapid growth and development of the sport of open water swimming in Cape Town, South Africa and internationally.

Our committee

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Kerry Kopke

Chairperson

Kerry’s swimming career peaked at age 8 when she made the Western Province Swimming team (she will show you her medals if asked) and it has been on a steady decline ever since. She now prefers swimming in the sea to the pool and can usually be found at the back of any open water swimming event. Kerry’s swimming CV includes several Robben Island crossings, a Cape Point swim, a Llandudno to Camps Bay swim and a close encounter with a Southern Right Whale. She brings an interesting blend of legal, corporate, government and non-profit experience to her position of Chair. Kerry’s vision for the CLDSA is to build an inclusive and co-operative open water swimming community that is welcoming, encouraging and celebrates the achievements of all open water swimmers.

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Katherine Persson

Swim Coordinator

Katherine has always been a water baby and after many years of surfing finally took up open water swimming in her 30’s (never too late to start!).  She was introduced to long distance swimming in the Cape on a very foggy day between Robben Island and Big Bay in 2018 and has since completed a number of island crossings and other long swims.  She has a particular soft spot for Cape Point swims and the False Bay coastline and believes that swim communities produce some of the nicest people on the planet.

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Hazel McQueen

Admin

Hazel loves water! For as long as she can remember she has been a swimmer and her learn to swim teachers are still clear in her mind. Hazel hopes that she get remembered by the kiddies that she now teaches to swim. Soon after Hazel moved to Cape Town she started swimming in a masters squad with the legendary coach, The Late Brian Button. In 2009, she took to the cold Atlantic Ocean, starting in a wetsuit, and then turned into a skins swimmer. Hazel has a couple of Robben Island swims under her belt, she swims regularly in the sea and participate in events all around the peninsula!

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Felicity Pentland-Smith

Treasurer

Felicity, also known as Lippy, is originally from landlocked Zimbabwe and only started open water swimming since arriving in Cape Town – and is making up for lost time! She loves everything about sea swimming – the adventure of being in the constantly changing ocean, the cold water, and especially the amazing people she has met along the way. She has done several RI crossings and a particularly gruelling Cape Point swim. She enjoys participating in events and is always up for a new challenge. Felicity has been the CLDSA Treasurer since July 2019 and believes in ‘giving back’. She has been involved in the organization of the annual ‘Bosom Buddy’ swim, which is a lady’s only, topless (voluntary) swim that raises money and awareness for breast cancer started by Kerry Kopke some years ago. Felicity is constantly amazed and inspired by other people’s stories and achievements. When not in the water, she is busy with finances on a daily basis.

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Maura Sanderoff

Secretary

Maura is an architectural technologist recently retired from UCT.  Born Irish, grew up in naval Simon’s Town, schooled in St James. Long-time married to Charles, two married children and two beautiful grandchildren. Spent her childhood climbing mountains and swimming many kilometres in False Bay. Her love and dependence on swimming increased after losing her leg at aged 16. Over the years she have met and been unconditionally accepted by the Cape swimming community, always there to support me her as she grows old and slow! With so many special memories and experiences like the “Swim a leg for Maura” in 2014 to get a much-needed new prosthesis. To date Maura has swum a few Robben Islands, both single and relay, Round Cape Point, Langebaan Express and so many other new swims around the Cape. Maura serves on the committee because she would like to now give back to the swimming community.

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Craig Bishop

CLDSA Writer

Unsure whether he is a swimmer with a writing problem or a writer with a swimming problem, it took Craig about seven years to pluck up the courage to do a Robben Island crossing. Now, bitten by the bug, he plans to add several more iconic South African swims to his bucket list. Craig is a writer behind the CLDSA newsletters and often gets our swim stories published in local and international distributions.

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Tom Maydon

Additional Member

Tom is a data scientist, quizmaster and father of two and when he is not doing school runs, setting quizzes for the Sunday Times or lecturing about the merits of machine learning at conferences, he’s probably in the water somewhere around the Cape Peninsula. Tom’s cold-water immersion only began in his late 30s and he has now completed multiple Robben Island crossings as well as a handful of other noteworthy CLDSA standard swims along with three ice-kilometres – the colder the better!

Tom has been a CLDSA committee member since 2017 and is passionate about growing long-distance swimming in the Cape. He believes the CLDSA needs to nurture the relationship with key stakeholders to grow the sport and intends to play a critical role doing just that. The need to attract foreigners and those outside of the Western Cape to our corner of Africa to share in the joy that the cold water brings is also a priority for him. His data science expertise is not lost to the CLDSA as he also enjoys compiling the odd swimming infographic.

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Dr. Otto Thaning

Additional Member

Anyone who has swum with Cape Town heart surgeon Dr Otto Thaning knows what a strong and graceful stroke he has – like poetry in water. He trained medically under Dr Christian Barnard, who performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant in 1967. In his spare time, Otto has a lifelong interest in aviation and has notched up an impressive open water resume including being the oldest solo English Channel swimmer at 73, his second Channel swim, as well as being the first person to swim across Lake Malawi, with conservation and swim legend Lewis Pugh, and numerous Robben Island crossings! Otto said at the time of his Channel crossing that he wanted to show that people over 70 were perfectly capable of achieving near superhuman feats, so long as they took care of themselves. 

Michelle Petring

Michelle Petring

Additional member

I have always loved swimming. I discovered open water swimming about 4 years ago. I love the freedom that I feel when I am in the open water. I really enjoy that swimmers in our community are so willing to share their experiences and knowledge on this sport that seems to be growing exponentially. My own journey has taken me to some great bodies of water around the Cape, including the Robben Island crossing (a personal favourite), Cape Point, Rooi-Els to Gordon’s Bay, and the Langebaan Lagoon. I look forward to introducing many more people to this sport in a safe and inclusive way.

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Dr Sean Gottschalk

CLDSA Medical Officer

Dr Sean Gottschalk is a Specialist Emergency Physician based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Sean has extensive experience working with cold water and ‘ice’ swimmers both locally and abroad. This includes numerous Robben Island open water crossings, and ‘ice swim’ events in South Africa, Lesotho, Antarctica and Russia. He has also participated in high altitude swim world record expeditions in both the Himalayas and the Andes.