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Roger Finch
cldsa hero: Roger Finch

Roger Finch

Roger Finch was born on the 15th of August 1957 in Bulawayo. He was born into a sporting family, his father swam and played water polo provincially, and his sister a multiple swimming record holder in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

Roger  married  Lindsay in 1980 after being childhood sweethearts since they were 16 and today they are still happily married. He travelled the world racing motor cycles at International Events including the Isle of Man TT. Roger found marathon swimming later in life after he show jumped himself into a broken pelvis.  After spending 6 months in Hospital on his back his rehab in a swimming pool led to Swimming which became his main form of physical rehabilitation and  took on new meaning , A few lengths became a few kilometres, and then he started wondering how much further he could swim and how longer he could be in the water. He started with the Midmar Mile  and then the 8 Mile Club.

On a trip to Cape Town he looked at Robben Island and wondered if he could swim from there so that became his first Ocean Swim at the age of 51.

He has swum 24 Robben Island crossings, the English Channel, The Catalina Channel, Rottnest, the Gibraltar Strait and many more. Roger is the first and still the only South African swimmer to achieve The Triple Crown, Catalina Channel, The English Channel and around Manhattan Island. These are all huge achievements but his real passion is helping new swimmers to achieve their swimming goals. 

“After I finished my first Robben Island crossing, I was so amazed at what I had just experienced that I vowed to help train and prepare at least one first time swimmer every year to experience what I experienced.”

He has supported numerous swimmers both locally and internationally, he and Channel Camp partner Tracy Clark were on the boat when Otto Thaning became the oldest swimmer to swim the English Channel. On the same weekend he supported Charlotte Samuels to realise her dream to become the youngest triple crown swimmer in history.  

“The feeling I get when I see their emotions when they swim it and walk out on the beach, is something I never forget. “

He doesn’t charge for the months he spends in and out of the water with novice swimmers. He says his payment is the inspiration he gets from the swimmers themselves.

One of those novices is radio veteran Sam Cowen :“I trained with Roger for 8 months. I saw him push himself and me in the pool through the coldest temperatures a Johannesburg winter can offer. He never complained and he was always waiting with coffee after a shower for some feedback and to talk about swimming, it really fuelled my ambition to swim more and more.”

Roger loves the ocean.

“It’s beautiful out there, the colours, the life under the surface. You learn to be one with it.”

cldsa hero: Tony Sellmeyer

Tony Sellmeyer

About me
Anthony (Tony) Sellmeyer born in 1950 on the 4th of October in the Western Cape.
Tony has done over 50 Robben Island crossing since he started open water swimming in 1988. He got into open water swimming after running many marathons, 7 Two Ocean runs and 14 Argus Cycle Tours, but his hip had packed up and he had a hip replacement so was limited to swimming.

When did I start swimming and why? 
In 1988 after the first Robben Island relay.

What has been my biggest achievement? 
Getting to 53 Robben Island crossings.

My most difficult Swim 
With my son Bernard on his first Robben Island swim ( 3 rd father and son ) in 1997 with Kevin Andersson 10/11 degrees.

My easiest Swim 
Robben Island with Hester Snyman 2003 water was 18 deg and Hester kept us entertained!

My funniest Moment  
In 2001 was swimming with Leigh Haselau and Peter Bales and Hugh Tucker were “ officials “ when a huge fin appeared between us and the boat !!! it was Sidney the basking shark, and they were not going to interrupt their very important discussion so we carried on…
My scariest Moment  
Swimming Round Cape point with Lewis Pugh/Jill Stramrood and Kevin Andersson when a big shark swam under us BUT we were 100 m from boat and just and to carry on swimming with our hearts pumping hard!

Do I have a RI target or goal? 
To encourage as many swimmers to achieve a Robben Island swim or some of the magnificent swims we have around the peninsula.

My ultimate Goal  
Carry on open water swimming as long a physically possible.

Tony has been a committee member on the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association for more than 20 years and has encouraged many swimmers to get into open water swimming and to swim Robben Island, Simonstown to Muizenberg and Cape Point and various other swims recognised by CLDSA.

cldsa hero: Lindsay de Kock

Lindsay de Kock

About me
I was born in Zambia and moved to South Africa as a 7 year old. I have 4 brothers who were all top class sportsmen, all playing some form of top class rugby.  I certainly inherited the will but, as with most things in my life, I'm just a very good average. I have been married to Errol for close on 40 adventurous years. During the middle years he ran 10 Two Oceans Marathons. We have 5 children, 3 children in law and 11 grandchildren.  I am a music teacher, teaching flute, piano and recorder.

When did I start swimming and why?
I don't ever remember not being able to swim, but I only ever trained at school, only once swimming provincially, and that by default. During my Varsity days I did almost no formal sport music was just too hectic. Once my children started learning to swim I took to training and also joined them doing Life Saving. I was also a Scouter and the best course I have ever attended was for my Water Charge Certificate, run over a freezing weekend in August on a pan in Welkom, it was absolutely brilliant. I have also done lots of running and cycling, having participated in Two Oceans and Comrades, as well as Cape Town Cycle Tour.
Having arthritis and fibromyalgia, which bring on many challenges, at present I mainly swim, though I love shuffling around and am very involved in parkrun. 

What has been my biggest achievement?
I think helping other people reach their potential, swimming, running or cycling when they thought they couldn't, is for me tops; and encouraging all our crazies doing amazing swims. Gosh what a privilege to cheer them on!
On a personal side I see all my events as great achievements and am always very grateful for being able to do things, but my Ice Mile must rank as one of my greatest achievements. Another non-swimming one was pushing a totally exhausted and disorientated New Zealander, Jon, up Poll Shorts. After the push and a whole bottle of game he recoverd and went on to complete Comrades.

My most difficult Swim
I think my second Deep Blue swim at St Helena Bay must rate as one of my toughest swims. All the elements were against us that day and swimmers fell like flies. I stuck it out until the very last km or so when the off shore wind and currents just would not allow me to make progress. That was when my vision decided there must be two light houses because they kept changing places! Eventually, when my paddler was as exhausted as I was, and no more swimmers were in the water, Derrick made the decision to take me out! Made total sense since I was almost going backwards but I was not happy!

My easiest Swim
Oh my word, I've only had one easy Robben Island crossing. Swimming with Santie, the water was 14 degrees, the sun was shining, the water was glorious and every thing was easy.

My funniest Moment
That's easy, Darren was my skipper and we'd had an "interesting" swim. Suddenly I realised I'd left him behind! Stopping to ask what the problem was I was informed they'd run out of fuel, they were rowing! For once I was able to out swim my boat! Derrick had to come to the rescue. While they were refuelling I was told to aim for the gap in the horizon and they'd meet me soon enough. Bare in mind my vision, rocks and surf and reflections make for hilarious multifaceted views. I was very relieved when Darren was again by my side, we laughed our way through that swim!

My scariest Moment
Two very scary times, my first Cape Point swim, my butt does not sink, so with the hellish dumpers at the start I was knocked unconscious and only came around standing on the beach again, entering that surf again. Eish terrifying!

My second Cape Point swim, my boatman did not believe in staying close to me! It didn't matter what I said or tried, I was always behind the boat imagining big men in grey suits in the extremely clear, sushi filled, sun dappled depths with head on waves. Every time I did get near the boat I was stung by the shark shield! Not a scary moment, an absolutely terrifying 4 hours 50 minutes!

Do I have a Robben Island target or goal?
I am about to swim my 30th Robben Island crossing. Many of them I have absolutely loved, some I've hated from the word go. Some have taken for ever! My longest being 4 hours 24, just the other day! I do not have a target, but I will continue to swim as long as I am able. 

Life after Swimming
I absolutely love swimming, but it is not my life. I am far too busy with family, work and church commitments, never mind friends, to ever be able to swim several hours every day, I would love to. The day will come when my disabilities prevent me from swimming. I will cope with that and will just have to move onto the next phase.

My ultimate Goal
On a swimming front, I will never have the money to do big swims overseas so I will just cherish the special waters we are gifted with in South Africa.

On a personal level, I have a very firm relationship with God and daily marvel at His Creation. My aim is to just glory in the wonders of our Earth, giving Him praise and honour in all I do. If I can inspire and help my fellow athletes along the way. Thank you Lord!

cldsa hero: Barry Culter

Barry Culter

Barry Cutler was a special man. He was humble man who loved humanity and adored his family.

Barry’s name has been written into Cape Town sea swimming history as the man responsible for smashing the perception that the Robben Island swim was the sole territory of former hard-core swimming champions!

Barry’s true legacy in the sport though, is something much more important.  The Robben Island swim had introduced Barry to three important characters, who between them, made sure that the Cape Long Distance Swimming   Association, functioned well and each swim was officiated and recorded. Peter and Kay Bales and Hugh Tucker had the onerous task of making sure each attempt was done to the rules.

Barry Cutler’s true legacy was the Ubuntu sentiment that he introduced to the Robben Island swimming fraternity. He became the go-to-man for novices who wanted to swim the famous crossing. He schooled scores of swimmers and officiated their swims. Most of them he did not know, but being a selfless man, Barry gave of his time for others to achieve their dreams. The sentiment of helping others achieve their goals was born. This resonated strongly with Barry.

Distance sea swimming is a discipline which requires hours and hours of solitary training, real tough mental resilience and a basic appreciation of one’s own company. It is a selfish sport which focuses on the individual. It is ironic however, that to achieve a Robben Island swim, you need selfless characters like Barry to realise the dream.

In a country which is in dire need of role models, Barry was the humble face of a sport that was responsible for making people’s dreams come true.

Cape Town has lost one of its sons far too early. He will be remembered in swimming circles as a gentleman, who loved his fellow man and gave back much more than he ever took. May his dear soul rest in peace.

Thank you


cldsa hero: Hugh Tucker

Hugh Tucker

Swimmer in Hall of Fame - Hugh Tucker

The Class of 2018 includes one of the world's most unsung swimmers, coaches, administrators and pilots Hugh Tucker of South Africa. Not only did Tucker attempt to cross the English Channel four times before he ultimately succeeded, but he also made shark cages for False Bay attempts and helped the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association establish its stature and organization due to his efforts and dedication together with Peter Bales.

He has served as an observer and pilot for the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association from mid 1970's to the present.

At the age of 21, he established the 14 km record between Robben Island and Woodstock Beach of 4 hours 9 minutes. He also held the record from Three Anchor Bay to Robben Island in 2 hours 45 minutes and the 9 km course from Simonstown to Muizenberg in 2 hours 41 minutes at a time he was touted as South Africa's top distance swimmer.

"You have to train your mind more than your body, because no matter how fit you are, four or five hours in the water is tough. You just have to keep on telling yourself to keep going. Besides there is always the worry of what is down there underneath you. I have had shark scares and seal scares while swimming in False Bay.

Corrie Ebbelaar and I were in False Bay training when we hit a shoal of blue bottles. They were not too thick, and we decided to carry on through them. Corrie got stung on the mouth and she drew in her breath in pain. The blue bottle went into her mouth and lodged in her throat. She couldn't breathe.

I helped her out of the water into the boat and we rushed her to the hospital where injections soon fixed her up.

cldsa hero: Peter Bales

Peter Bales

Peter Bales, one of the founding members of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA), is one of those legends of the sport whose personality, energy and dedication have been greatly appreciated by generations of swimmers.

Bales is now 73 years old and is still swimming and piloting with gusto. Piloting since 1969, Bales and Tucker have escorted approximately 250 swimmers between Robben Island and Cape Town over the past 45 years.

Bales is the chairman CLDSA, the official body to officiate over solo swims in Cape Town waters in South Africa and elsewhere in the country on request. Bales helped co-found the governing body together with Dennis Pearson, Coenie van Eyssen, Frank Nielsen, John Pagden and John Whitmore.

Virtually every record swim documented by the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association was piloted by either himself or Hugh Tucker. But along with the fast records swims have come others on the opposite end of the spectrum. He has piloted for people like Tony Scalabrino, another pilot who swam from Robben Island to Blouberg in 7 hours 15 minutes and Lydia Goldswain who suffers from spastic diplegia and swam in just over 5 hours for the 7.4 km Robben Island to Bloubergstrand swim.

Bales has been a steady eye throughout all his swim. Fortunately, rescues have been few and far between, but his skills and quick actions have helped prevent tragedies from happening. "Dr Derek Yach was attempting a double 22 km Robben Island-to-Three Anchor Bay swim," recalls Theodore Yach. "A Great White emerged next to him on the return trip approximately 400 meters from the end of his second leg. He attempted again on the next weekend, but was again stopped by a Great White approximately 500 meters from the start of the first leg. The second time, the shark hit the boat in an attempt to get at Derek. Not one to give up easily, Derek succeeded some years later in horrendous conditions with Peter."

Some of his piloted swims have been quite memorable. Bales and Hugh teamed up to pilot American Lynne Cox on her swim around Cape Point in which she became the first person to complete the swim in the late 1980’s. "She describes in her book how a Great White crossed her path several times," explains Yach. "According to Peter, when he told her she only had 2 km out of the 8 km to go, she chose to stay in the water and complete the swim."

Bales tells of another swim that he and Tucker escorted Bill Currer. "Bill was an enormously powerful man who took nonsense from no one." The 11 km swim was from Simonstown to Muizenberg in 1987. The then-President of South Africa PW Botha was on a tour of new Navy corvettes at the naval base in Simonstown. "A gunboat arrives next to our skiff when we were approximately 4 km into the swim and orders Bill out of the water and to clear the area. Bill told them to go away in colorful language. However, when they cocked their submachine guns, he saw the point and exited the water in a hurry. We had to cease this swim in 2003 due to the resurgence of Great Whites in False Bay."

The swims he has participated in can fill a volume of tales and the real-life adventures he can tell can go on for days.


cldsa hero: Theodore Yach

Theodore Yach

Theodore Yach after his 100th crossing

Cape Town - Thirty-five years after completing his first crossing from Cape Town to Robben Island, the feat of finally finishing his 100th journey is a memory he will always treasure, swimmer Theodore Yach said on Tuesday.

After entering 13-degree waters, the 58-year-old took on the 10.4km route shortly before 08:00 from Three Anchor Bay. Faced with a strong current and icy surf, he completed the crossing in three hours and 10 minutes. "I felt relieved when I finished," he told News24 once he had warmed up with a shower, cup of tea and a sandwich. "It was a tough route, but seeing my wife and sons waiting for me made me very happy."

Yach, who trains five days a week - swimming 22km and doing a day of weight training - said he remembered his maiden voyage to the landmark very well.

Among his boat crew in 1981 was then-president of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association, Peter Bales, who fulfilled the same duty on Tuesday. Yach said his latest swim was the culmination of a 35-year goal. "With every stroke, I told myself to keep my head under water." This was to keep him motivated by not focussing on how far it was to land, he explained.

"About 75% [of the feat] is focusing on the mental aspect. I don't wear a wetsuit. I do this in a Speedo, so beating the cold is critical." Yach's 100th crossing means he is now recognised in the international open-water swimming hall of fame. Six other swimmers - Toni Enderli, Kieron Palframan, Ryan Stramrood, Mark De Klerk, Buff van Westenbrugge and Dean Noik – also took part in Tuesday's swim.

Funds were raised through the swim for six charities: the Children's Hospital Trust, Paper Video, NSRI Waterwise Project, Wynberg Boys' School's Aquatic Centre, Highlands House and the Herzlia Foundation Trust.

cldsa hero: Otto Thaning

Otto Thaning

South African Otto Thaning, 73, is oldest channel swimmer
7 September 2014

The swim between England and France has attracted hundreds of endurance swimmers. A 73-year-old South African heart surgeon has become the oldest person to swim the English Channel.

Otto Thaning said he had wanted to show what older people are capable of if they look after themselves. He took the title from Australian Cyril Baldock, who only last month swam the channel three months shy of his 71st birthday.

Dr Thaning, who first swam the channel in 1994, said the temperature of the water was the biggest problem. He said he had suffered cramp in his feet early on in the swim.

"My wish was basically to promote the idea that people over the age of 70 can do things like this if they look after themselves and work hard," he said.

"The biggest problem is to maintain one's core temperature because the water is cold. We averaged 18C (64F), and that was particularly helpful to me because that's reasonably warm for the channel. The channel is usually a little bit colder at this time of year."

The English Channel route is 34km (21 miles) straight across but currents mean it is rare for a swimmer to cover it in less than 40km. Dr Thaning trained medically under Dr Christian Barnard, who performed the world's first successful human-to-human heart transplant in 1967.

cldsa hero: Kieron Palframan

Kieron Palframan

Kieron was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1974 and his family moved to Cape Town when he was 1 year old. He has 2 children of his own and together with his partner Donne they have 5 children in their home. Donne is also a big influence in his Swimming and gives him tremendous support.

Kieron started Swimming at Junior School and was fairly competitive then concentrating mainly on Water Polo in Senior School.

After School he competed in many disciplines including Ironman Triathalons and is the only South African Ice Ironman amongst 18 others in the World. An Ice Ironman is someone who has completed an Ironman Event which is 3.8km Swim, 180km Ride and a 42.2 Run, as well as an Ice Mile an Event in which you need to Swim a Mile in Water Temperature of less than 5 degree C.

Kieron has completed 79 Robben Island Crossings and states that he is not chasing any records as he does the crossings as training for his Channel Swims. Having recently completed the North Channel Crossing which is regarded as probably the most difficult of the Oceans 7 Crossings in 11hrs 18 mins makes him the fastest of the 4 South Africans of a Total of 57 to have swum the North Channel. Kieron regards the North Channel as his most difficult Swim and to date has also completed The English Channel , Catalina and Gibraltar Crossings.

Kieron was named as one of the Top 50 Adventurous Swimmers in the World.

The people that have inspired Kieron the most are Peter Bales and Tony Sellmeyer who got him to do his first RI Crossing. A huge Influence has been Ram Barkai in his Open Water and Ice Swimming Exploits throughout the World.

Roger Finch
Roger Finch

Roger Finch was born on the 15th of August 1957 in Bulawayo. He was born in...

Tony Sellmeyer
Tony Sellmeyer

About me Anthony (Tony) Sellmeyer born in 1950 on the 4th of October in th...

Lindsay de Kock
Lindsay de Kock

About me I was born in Zambia and moved to South Africa as a 7 year old. I...

Barry Culter
Barry Culter

Barry Cutler was a special man. He was humble man who loved humanity and ad...

Hugh Tucker
Hugh Tucker

Swimmer in Hall of Fame - Hugh Tucker The Class of 2018 includes one of...

Peter Bales
Peter Bales

Peter Bales, one of the founding members of the Cape Long Distance Swimming...

Theodore Yach
Theodore Yach

Theodore Yach after his 100th crossing Cape Town - Thirty-five years aft...

Otto Thaning
Otto Thaning

South African Otto Thaning, 73, is oldest channel swimmer 7 September 2014...

Kieron Palframan
Kieron Palframan

Kieron was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1974 and his family moved to Cape To...