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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.

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  • Joined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’  Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_jamesJoined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’ Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_james
  • “When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio  #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible“When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible
  • Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.
  • The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.
  • @khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️@khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️
  • A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.
  • @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" > @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" />Can you watch The Octopus Teacher and still not want to do all you can to help protect our ocean and it's incredible, mysterious, peaceful tenants?This Documentary really touched me…I can't compare to Craig Foster, but I’ve been so blessed to swim with so many beautiful Ocean creatures – from mammoth whales and smaller ones too, countless playful dolphins, plenty cheeky seals, weird anti-social sunfish, penguins and yes, sharks too.I have even had yellowtail fish follow me for kilometres when I was swimming between continents, Europe to Africa’s Gibraltar Straits. They would inquisitively look directly into my goggles with their big round, penetrating eyes. When you share each other’s space in this way, something creeps into your core, into your soul and you’ll intuitively know you’ve been tasked by the creatures of the sea to help them. Follow -> @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject
  • Laying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_saLaying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_sa
  • Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻
  • When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.