Open water swimming in December? You betcha! And no doubt there is many a Canadian Masters swimmer who would like to be in the open water instead of the chlorinated confines.
In the meantime, Kristin Roe’s story will have to do.
Roe of Hamilton, Ontario, became the first Canadian to complete the Robben Island swim on December 6, 2006
Halifax – During a five month research contract in partnership with
the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health in Halifax,
Kristin Roe was working on gender and HIV/AIDS issues in South Africa.
Roe loves long distance, open water swims. She crossed the
Northumberland Strait in the summer of 2005, so it was only natural
that she would hear the call of the open sea off Africa.
She quickly hooked up with a group of open water swimmers, spending
her weekends swimming at the Camps Bay and Clifton Beaches. Then she
caught wind of the Robben Island swim. She is the first Canadian to
complete the famous Robben Island swim. Former South African president
Nelson Mandela spent over 20 years of his jail time on Robben Island.
She finished the eight kilometre swim in just over three hours.
Roe and MSC editor Laura Young recently discussed her swim and plans for the future.
1.) How did you find out about the Robben's Island Swim?
Through a group of open water swimmers I was training with on the
weekends. They encouraged me to try the swim and told me it was a bit
of a 'rite of passage' with swimmers in South Africa.
2.) Did you hesitate at all?
Not really! As soon as someone encouraged me to do it I got excited to try!
3.) What intrigued you?
The thought of swimming at one of the southern most parts of the
African continent, of doing a swim in Africa (a continent I love), and
the historical significance of swimming from an island that held many
of the anti-apartheid prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.
4.) What was the best part of the swim - I'm thinking it's the connection with nature and the elements?
It was such a warm and sunny day. The wait to actually attempt the
swim was worth it. While the water was incredibly cold (12 C), I used
the cold to really challenge my desire to swim. Every time I breathed
to the right, I could see the most perfect view of Table Mountain.
The boatsmen told me I appeared relaxed and loose the entire time;
like I was out for a leisurely swim. However, I felt quite tight for
most of the swim because of the cold. It felt like I was swimming in
slow-motion. I just kept enjoying the view and the experience and
always took a breath every three strokes, counting to 1000 to keep me
5.) What marine life did you see?
I didn’t see any during my actual swim, but there were times during
my training swims that we could see dolphins and seals nearby.
6.) Now, how do you pick up and find new goals? Do you need a down time?
I always need a down time after a swim, to enjoy in the experience
of just completing a goal and to rest my body. During that time, I try
to enjoy other forms of physical activity, walks and hikes and the
elliptical (machine) at the gym.
Outside of swimming, I've just been accepted to the Master’s Program
in Community Development (global focus) at the Coady International
Institute at St Francis Xavier so I am pumped to get started on that
7.) Why did you pick HIV/AIDS as an issue when there are so many charities to help?
“I would argue there is no greater issue in the world when 8,000
people a day die from AIDS related illness. That’s the same as a
tsunami per day. The people I’ve met, the hands (of the dying) I’ve
held in Africa and Canada - when you see communities that are
devastated you can’t help but do all in your power to move the process.”
8.) What do you want to do next long distance swimming-wise?
I'd like to get back into training and to try a double crossing of
the Northumberland Strait. As always, since open water swims often
receive public attention, I try to use that to my advantage and to
raise awareness and/or funds of the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS.
My partnership and experiences with the Stephen Lewis Foundation and
the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa
(www.stephenlewisfoundation.org and www.tac.org.za) are perhaps even
more rewarding than the swims itself.