Ryan Stramrood, who has done at least 10 doubles, chats about his mental strategy for a double island crossing!
“Swimming, especially in the cold, as we all know is a hugely mental sport. A strong mind is a necessity for any and all (skins) Robben Island crossings – is it never easy. And the additional difficulty of a double Robben Island crossing is often underestimated. It is exponentially more difficult and is NOT just double the distance – that’s the physical challenge.
“The mental challenge is what counts! One needs to get beyond the crazy thought of reaching the island usually freezing and tired, then turning around, and handling the same level of difficulty and cold for another long, long time. And let’s be honest, the water conditions rarely improve later in the day – quite the opposite.
“We all have tricks (or techniques if you like). As humans, I have found that no matter what the distance I am attempting, approx. 2/3’s of the way across, as the beach draws closer, the mind starts to grasp at the attractive concept of a warm towel and hot chocolate. And as soon as that is allowed to happen in my head, that beach takes a long, long time to arrive and without fail the negative thoughts rush in.
“So, the trick I have developed, share widely, and which I believe have helped many a ‘double crosser’, is to make a promise to oneself. I promise myself that I will not have one negative thought all the way across to the island, especially none on the turn-around and still none until I am 2/3’s of the way back to the beach.
“At that point, and only if necessary, I allow myself the ‘treat’ of being able to moan, curse and even abuse the skipper’s patience (who is briefed in advance that this will happen :). At this point it is only 2.5-odd km to go, and there is no way on earth I would pull out now.
“But those negative thoughts happening on the turn-around or any earlier might have had a much bigger impact.”