About Us


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


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. 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.

CLDSA lifetime members

The Cape Long Distance Swimming Association recognizes the following individuals for their contribution in establishing and growing the long distance swimming community.

Their legacy helps long distance swimmers from around the world to realize swimming achievements.

Peter Bales

Peter Bales

Kay Bales

Kay Bales

Hugh Tucker

Hugh Tucker

Barry Cutler

The late Barry Cutler

Kevin Fialkov

The late Kevin Fialkov

Sue Simpson

Sue Simpson

Theodore Yach

The late Theodore Yach

Tony Sellmeyer

Tony Sellmeyer

Brian Button

The late Brian Button

Tony Scalabrino

Tony Scalabrino

Motti Lewis

Motti Lewis

Derrick Frazer

Derrick Frazer

Eddy Cassar

Eddy Cassar

Our committee

Shoneé Cornelissen


From the friendly city of Port Elizabeth, Shoneé has always loved the water and swam up until the age of 14yrs but then pursued hockey as a sport. In 2019 the love of swimming was rekindled after a friend gave her an entry into the Cape Mile and from there the love of open water grew and now you won’t find her anywhere but in the water. Shoneé has completed a few Robben Island Crossings, a double Preekstoel, Fish Hoek to Miller’s and enjoys the long swims at the Langebaan lagoon. Being a qualified Biokineticist, she brings value from a health and wellness perspective with a special interest in neurological conditions. Shoneé’s vision is to grow the open water community, build and strengthen relationships as well as work collaboratively with like-minded individuals striving and celebrating the same end goal, which is the love of the sport



Monéne Murray


Monéne is a consultant and business coach, helping others and their business to grow. As part of her own growth journey, she discovered her love for swimming, in particular cold water swimming in 2013. She is passionate about growing the cold water swimming community and believes in the role that CLDSA has to make the beautiful swims in the Western Cape accessible to local and international swimmers.

Monéne combines her love for travelling and open water swimming by doing swimming holidays abroad and has done a few major swimming events, including the Bospherous Cross-continental swim in Istanbul. She has also completed a few Robben island crossings and aspire to do many more of the beautiful local cold water swims.

Michelle Petring

Michelle Petring


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.

Peter Emslie


Born, raised and still living in Paarl.  Peter swam competitively until the age of 14.  At age 30 the midlife crises hit early and he started swimming again, competing in the odd 1km open water dam swims.  Around 2016 he tried out the Clifton Mile swim and was immediately hooked to cold water swimming and now regularly makes the trip from Paarl to swim in the sea.  Some of Peter’s big swims include a Robben Island crossing and a 20km Mad Dash swim.  He hopes to one day complete Big Bay Events’ Big 5 swims.

Eva Dirksen

Eva Dirksen


Eva’s love of swimming all started  with early morning swims on Fishhoek Beach. Eva joined an open water swimming group by a chance introduction and her world changed dramatically. Such inspiring and special people! Eva loves being in the water and each swim is a new adventure. She has  completed a number of big open water swims including Robben Island crossings.


Maura Sanderoff


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.


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.


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. 


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.