Off the Couch | In the Beginning
29 May 2018
People always laugh when I describe myself as an Average Joe, but it’s true. I run a small business, I’m a single dad, I have all the same daily frustrations and challenges as everyone. I just happen to have a crazy hobby on the side that helps me deal with them a little differently. My hobby is Ultra Extreme Open Water and Ice Swimming.
I only started swimming in my late twenties/early thirties – I could tell I was becoming a bit of a couch potato and I’d always enjoyed swimming, so I signed up with a small swimming squad.
After a while, one of the guys suggested I attempt the Robben Island to Blouberg Swim: 7.3km in very cold open water.
At first, I thought it was an insane idea; something reserved for elite athletes and nowhere near my aspirations nor abilities. But something made me train for it anyway, and in 2003 I gave it a go, and succeeded. Now I’ve done it 77 times, and what was an ‘Everest’ to me, I now look at as a training swim (a tough one, though!)
That first Robben Island Swim got me thinking about what more was possible – what else I could think was an insane idea, and then achieve. Since then I’ve swum all over the world: from South Africa, Gibraltar, Taiwan, Australia, South America, Alaska, the Arctic Circle, Russia, Antarctica, even Siberia and many, many other crazy places…
It’s not easy. I have to follow painful, pioneering training techniques before an ice challenge. Because I’m not doing it full time, I use what limited resources I have and put basic safety procedures in place – initially drawing from a like-minded group of mates who helped open many doors. But I’ve found that by challenging myself and pushing personal limits for swimming in ice water, I’ve embarked on a personal journey of challenge and discovery… That’s how I got started with my speaking career – telling my story to a few friends and then a few more, and then small businesses, and bigger and bigger.
It certainly wasn’t ever the plan to become a ‘speaker’, but seeing what everyone takes away after hearing my simple story makes me want to do it every day!
The challenges I do around the world impact my life hugely. If I can achieve the impossible in the water and in temperatures it’s not supposed to be possible to swim in, I can achieve great things in all aspects of my life.