I started open water swimming in 2013, when I thought that depression was a normal state of existence and crying in the shower was a daily routine. I was studying Fine Arts and we would have daily critiques from 2-5pm – which, in Cape Town’s sweltering heat, were incredibly unpleasant to endure. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of bonding was done, too, but I mean, our faces say it all.
Picture taken by Aaron Samuel Mulenga
One day, a family friend invited me to go ‘play in the waves’ at Camps Bay, where she would meet up with a friend who would actually swim out, past the waves, to the back of Camps Bay… and across, and then back. Later on I found out this was called the Sunday Hot Chocolate Swimming group – come join us!
“Why don’t you come join us next weekend?” She suggested.
Having the philosophy of trying anything once – I agreed.
With the help of Ann I became more comfortable in the ocean and for about 2 years I religiously swam 3 times a week… getting fitter and more confident in the ocean.
Swimming in the ocean is addictive. It is like going on a high – that first shock of walking into the water… sometimes one can’t even breathe, and it feels like a panic attack is coming on.
With the encouragement from one’s peers, for me it was Daniel, Brian, and sometimes Arafat, I would keep swimming, moving my limbs despite the cold, the shock, and the tension.
If this puts you off – imagine – eventually, when you and your body realise there is no escape from the pain, and the numbness, you are forced to let go of it, relax. For me – at that time – it was a physical manifestation of what I needed to do with my depression, a metaphorical proof of my strength… and empowering to feel like I alone was the one pushing myself forwards, with people swimming alongside me to safeguard that nothing dire could happen.
2 years ago I attempted to swim a 3.2 km in Langebaan and got badly stung by jellyfish – and I think that experience, along with the daily demands of life, prompted a pause in the exercise.
So, 4 years after I started swimming, I come back to Clifton, for the “Bosom Buddies” swim – many ladies gathered to shed their shirts and do a topless swim in order to raise funds for breast cancer. The event was documented, but only for those who took part. There are some beautiful, and private methods with which we aim to pay tribute to those we love, who we’ve lost to this disease. What struck me, above all else, was the safety everyone felt, the enthusiasm, and the strength from and love for all these women.
Once, in finesse of fiddles, found I ecstasy in the flash of gold heels on the hard pavement. Now see I that warmth’s the very stuff of poesy. Oh God, make small the old, star-eaten blanket of the sky – so I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.