SA and the Oceans 7
Three Saffers are hunting down O7 glory!
To date, only one South African has completed the Oceans Seven challenge – Cameron Bellamy, who finished his seven swims with the Tsugaru Strait of Japan in just over 11 hours in June, 2018. He was just the 11th person ever to have completed all seven swims.
Three other Saffer swimmers are getting close, though. They are clockwise, Kieron Palframan, Herman van der Westhuizen and Toni Enderli.
What are the Oceans Seven swims?
The Cook Strait – 26km
Between the north and south islands of New Zealand. Reputation: cold water, turbulent weather, 15% of swimmers meet a shark.
The Molokai Channel – 44km
Between the islands of Moloka’i and Oahu in Hawaii. Reputation: big seas, long distance, lots of venomous jellyfish.
The North Channel – 34km
Between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Reputation: the hardest of the Oceans Seven swims, due to the extreme cold (10 to 12C) and jellyfish.
The Catalina Channel – 32km
Between Catalina Island and Los Angeles. Reputation: strong currents and marine life.
The Strait of Gibraltar – 16km
Between Spain and Morocco. Reputation: windy, strong currents and tides.
English Channel – 34km
Between England and France. Reputation: cold water, strong tidal surges, variable conditions.
Tsugaru Strait – 20km.
Between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. Reputation: strong currents, cold water, marine life.
Herman van der Westhuizen (56) – Completed four: English Channel, North Channel, Catalina Channel and Molokai Strait.
Booked to do Molokai in May, Gibraltar in June and Cook Strait later in 2023.
“On the day, if the sea is against you, no matter how fit you are, it’s impossible, but you know, whether you finish the swim or not, you have given your best and no one can take that away from you. In 2018, I waited for three weeks in Hawaii for a window that never came. After 13 hours, currents just swept me away 800m from the end. In 2019, I went back to Japan to finish Tsugaru – again, very rough sea, unlike anything before, touch and go! Cook Strait in 2020, great start, then again the 2-3 knot currents which kills your swim.
With seven weeks to go – picking up in mileage to hopefully 60km a week in three weeks, then decreasing. I currently do 30km in the week and try to do a long sea/lagoon/ dam swim of 12-15km every weekend. With MTB /cross training three times a week. As I am getting older, I have to be very careful to not push too hard, then training has no effect. So I am very good friends with my Garmin S6. Regular long, open-water swims are critical. Very different from pool. But to get enough mileage, pool is necessary and it gives variety.
Toni Enderli (44): – Resident in Switzerland, Toni has done three of the Oceans 7 swims – the English Channel, the Straits of Gibraltar and the Molokai Straits. He is set to do Catalina in June, then the Cook Straits in February 2023, and, hopefully, the remaining two the same year.
Toni swam his first Robben Island some 12 years ago with Kieron Palframan and Ryan Stramrood, going on to do Gibraltar with them, as well as two ice miles in Frazerberg. In 2013, his team pulled him out of the water after nine hours in 13 degrees, on his first English Channel attempt. The next day, a woman died some 2km from the French coast. But Toni returned successfully in 2015. In 2017, he conquered Molokai in 20 hours, 20 minutes, an “absolute beast” of a swim, he says, where he spent four hours in the same spot fighting the underwater current off the submarine ledge off one of the islands.
In 2017, he decided to give swimming a break after his Catalina swim came short due to his crew getting sick and him getting water in the lungs while treading water.
Toni’s father passed away recently, and he says this has given him a new determination and confidence to finish the Oceans Seven. “I am going to finish this to honour my Dad. I’m back in the mix at such a different level. I’m loving it now.”
Kieron Palframan (43) – Completed six. One left – Molokai, hopefully in June 2022.
Kieron was once named one of the world’s most adventurous open-water men. He has also swum in the Beagle Channel, the Strait of Magellan, Cape Horn, Antarctic, Murmansk, Russia, Cape Point, Robben Island and Fraserburg in South Africa.
“Hardest so far North Channel, but totally depends on the day. It’s all a mind thing you prepare for the swim and are exhausted at the end of all of them! I do what I can and hopefully in the end that will be enough. I have never had the luxury of having over-training. With a busy lifestyle, kids, work and social I can only do what I can.”