Health

A dramatic open-water swim on the tip of Africa

Published 3:59 AM ET, Fri June 16, 2017
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One of the newest open-water races in South Africa is the Walkerbay Open Water Xtreme, which runs along a small stretch of beautiful, dramatic coastline in the town of Hermanus, about 75 miles east of Cape Town. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay
The race began at the new harbor after everyone got acclimated in the chilly water. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
Arafat Gatabazi, 22, swims without a wetsuit and finds the cold to be a challenge of mind over matter. "You can control it," he said. CNN
Close to shore for much of the route but still subject to strong oceanic currents, the conditions are manageable. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
"Hermanus must be one of the most beautiful places in the world to swim," said Vicky van der Merwe, one of this year's competitors. CNN
The race holds a very small risk of shark attacks. There is safety in numbers when it comes to discouraging sharks from getting close.
Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
There are some natural obstacles to negotiate, namely kelp and painful urchins near the shore and at the finish line. Swimmer Paul Ingpen makes his way through the kelp. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
To keep the racers on course, there are buoys and kayakers in the water and lifeguards along the shore. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
Fast swimmers can complete the 2.5-kilometer race in under 40 minutes, but more average ones can take a bit more than an hour. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
Of the 113 swimmers who participated this year, almost all were South African, 39 were women, and they ranged in age from 12 to 70s. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
Naor Lombard, 12, was the youngest participant. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme
The race ends at the stone walls and cliff's edge of the town's old harbor and amphitheater. Swimmers are handed hot chocolate to warm themselves. Courtesy HI-TEC Walkerbay Xtreme