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Swimming

100 Robben Island Crossings

Timeline

2019 July

Bonifacio Strait

Between Corsica and Sardinia

15 km

Completed with fellow swimmer Andrea Mason in a time of 4 hrs 55 min.

2019 May

100th Robben Island Crossing

Table Bay, South Africa

7.4 km

2nd person to swim 100 crossings between Robben Island and the mainland, in a time of 2 hrs 18 min.

2017 August

North Channel (Ireland to Scotland)

Failed after 6.5 hrs and 19,3 km due to pulmonary edema, which landed me in hospital. Water 12.8°C.

2017 February

Simon's Town to Muizenburg

False Bay, South Africa

10 km

2017 February

Midmar 16 Miles

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

25.5 km

16 individual miles.

2017 January

IISA World Championships

Borghausen, Germany

1 km

Water 2.5°C.

2016 November

Jokulsarlon Ice Swim

Iceland

0.75 km

Ice swim for film crew in a glacier lake. Water -1°C.

2016 January

24 hour swim in a pool

40 km

Madswimmers.

2015 July

North Channel Double Relay (Ireland to Scotland to Ireland)

72 km

6-person international relay. Water 12°C. Swim time 30 hours.

2015 January

IISA World Championships

Murmansk, Russia

1 km

Water 0.5°C.

2014 July

Russia to USA Solo

Bering Strait

3.8 km

Attempt to swim solo as first male between Diomede Islands. No contact with land, no record. Madswimmers.

2014 March

Antarctica Ice Mile

Neko Harbour, Antarctica

1.6 km

First official ice mile in Antarctica. Water -1°C.

2013 August

Russia to USA (mainland to mainland)

Bering Sea, Russia and Alaska

84 km

World First International Relay.

2012 March

Arctic Ice Mile

Murmansk, Russia

1.6 km

First official ice mile north of the Arctic Circle.

2011 December

Tyumen, Siberia

Russia

1 km

-33°C (ambient), water 0.3°C

2010 October

Europe to Africa

Strait of Gibraltar

17.5 km

First and only South African to do this twice.

2011 February

Cape Horn (the Southern Most Tip of South America)

Tierra del Fuego

2,5 km

2011 February

Beagle Channel Double (Chile to Argentina to Chile)

Tierra del Fuego

3,2 km

8°C water temp, whirlpools.

2011 February

Strait of Magellan

Tierra del Fuego

4 km

Water temp 10°C - rough waters.

2010 June

Fraserburg Ice Swim

Fraserburg, South Africa

1.6 km

IISA First Ice Swim, sub 5°C. Two additional Fraserburg Ice Swims in consecutive years.

2009 August

Alcatraz Crossing

San Francisco, USA

2.5 km

2009 August

Pennock Island Race

Ketchikan, Alaska

14 km

2008 August

England to France

English Channel

34 km

27th South African to achieve this huge swim.

2007 October

Rottnest Island Race

Australia

20 km

Event cancelled, Ryan still swam the follow day and was recognised by authorities.

2006 June

Taiwan to China

Taiwan Strait

130 km

International Relay (unsuccessful - currents killed us).

2005 September

Europe to Africa

Strait of Gibraltar

17.5 km

First international channel crossing.

2004 June

Dassen Island to Yzerfontein

West Coast, South Africa

9 km

3rd person to achieve this.

2004 April

Robben Island to Rocklands

Table Bay, South Africa

12.5 km

2nd person to achieve this (even though by mistake).

2004 March

Simon's Town to Muizenburg

False Bay, South Africa

10 km

Prior to highenten Great White shark awareness, largely swum without support crew.

2003 December

Robben Island to Blouberg

Table Bay, South Africa

7.3 km

First big swim.

Past Challenges

Bonifacio Strait

2019 July

Bonifacio Strait

Few people have ever attempted to swim the Bonifacio Strait, rather notoriously rough waters from the Italian island of Sardinia to the French island of Corsica. A narrow 15km stretch of fairly undocumented swimming waters.

The Bonifacio Strait does not compare in stature to the likes of the English Channel or North Channel at all, but still, underestimate it at your peril. Being fit and ready to swim 15km is one thing. But being fit to swim 15km in relentlessly rough water, is entirely another. So when I walked out the water in Corsica with fellow swimmer Andrea Mason 4h55 minutes after starting, one look at each other’s faces confirmed what the other was thinking.

Perhaps we both had not given her enough consideration nor respect and she gave us the little kick in the pants we deserved. But it was only a warning shot, a friendly reminder as to who is boss and we were both thrilled to tick the Bonifacio Strait crossing box.

100th Robben Island Crossing

2019 May

On Thursday 23 May, Ryan became the second person to swim 100 crossings between Robben Island and the mainland, in a time of 2 hours 18 minutes.

Ryan dedicated his 7,4km swim to his late friend, Theodore Yach, who made the swim an incredible 108 times.

I trained with him often and swam a number of Robben Island crossings with him, including his 100th. Theo swam my 50th crossing with me in 2015 and would have joined me on my 100th today.

No Robben Island Swim is ever easy. Fellow extreme swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh accompanied Ryan in a support boat:

It’s an incredible achievement to swim 100 Robben Islands. I have been swimming for 32 years and I have never done an easy Robben Island, never once, and he has now done 100. The thing about Robben Island is that it’s always unpredictable: you think you are going to do two hours and conditions change and it takes three hours; you think you will take 3 hours and it becomes 5 hours. It shows Ryan has got real mental fortitude and ‘vasbyt.’

– Lewis Pugh, Author and Ocean Advocate

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

2016 November

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

Jokulsarlon, Iceland is certainly one of the most unique swims I have done. The goal was different. It was a TV production which required a different discipline, shoots, re-shoots, dialogue, multiple entry, much exposure and the rudimentary recovery facility of a warm van. But again, a firm reminder as to just how deadly exposure to ice water is, how focused the mind needs to be to extend a period and to perform physically in these temperatures.

How quickly one starts to believe in one’s own limitations – a mental defence mechanism with which I am so familiar. How profoundly the body reacts and the speed of its shut down. How painful the recovery process is and, of course, how unbelievably exhilarating the feeling is once the body returns to normal temperature and how the adrenaline pumps through my veins.

North Channel Double Relay

2015 July

North Channel Double Relay

Ryan Stramrood represented South Africa in a WORLD FIRST two-way relay attempt to cross the notoriously difficult North Channel; Swimming from Ireland to Scotland and then back to Ireland, a total distance of 70km in 12°C water temperatures.

Against massive odds and going against the expert advice, the team had to make difficult decisions prior to their attempt. They faced unbelievable challenges in the icy waters, as a result of the poor weather, extreme distance and the violent Lions Main jellysh poisoning which ravaged the team.

The double crossing took just over 29hrs for the 6-person team which was made up of swimmers from Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Czech Republic and South Africa.

Russia to USA Solo

2014 July

Russia to USA Solo

A hard lesson and massive personal disappointment for me, not being able to overcome, inter alia, the political challenges of entering Russia illegally, and therefore not claiming the record I set out to claim.

I proved to myself that I could survive the 3.8km distance between the islands, but the challenge required something from my personality and mind set that was not yet fully developed.

The hazards on this swim shifted from the deadly cold water and its walrus colony, to the fear of being arrested in a Speedo for illegally swimming across a Russian/USA border! To set records often requires breaking rules (and asking for forgiveness later). However, when you are in a very real, hostile, life-threatening situation with no support from anyone, it can be a very difficult thing to do. I learnt a lot from this incredible expedition.

Antarctica Ice Mile

2014 March

Antarctica Ice Mile

As the founding members of the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA), we wanted to achieve an official world first Ice Mile South of the Antarctic Circle. Harsh weather conditions pushed us slightly North of this goal, however the water temperature in Neko Harbour was still a devastating minus 1°C.

Completing and surviving the challenge after a harsh 32 minutes in the water, the lessons I learned from pushing myself so far beyond what most believed to be impossible, have helped me to understand the power of the human mind and it’s default propensity to hold us back.

The psychological anxiety from the Leopard Seals, Orca and other wildlife we stood to encounter on this challenge, on top of an impossible distance in minus 1°C water, made this a pivotal challenge for me and the focus of my primary keynote talk.

Russia to USA Relay

2013 August

Russia to USA Relay

As part of the SA team to join a 100-strong international relay team trying to be the first to swim from mainland Russia to mainland USA, the trip from Cape Town to Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky (the relay start point) is a story all on its own. Then the 14 days and nights we spent in some of the harshest conditions onboard a Russian Hospital Ship in the wild Bering Sea is tale like none other. A successful mission which was doomed on many occasions.

Siberia

2011 December

Siberia

After Ram Barkai established the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA), three of the South African founding members were invited to partake in an event in Tyumen, Siberia.

Still new to the challenge of ice swimming, the team arrived to meet MINUS 33°C ambient temps, a very curious local media and a truly petrifying situation as we stood on the side of the 25m “pools” which were cut into a frozen lake with the indescribable bite of -33°C on our skin.

This has been one of the best stories and adventures to date. A 24hr whirlwind of emotion and mental conquering. A journey from “This is impossible” all the way to SUCCESSFULLY accomplishing the 1km distance.

Beagle Channel Double

2011 February

Beagle Channel Double

A mission to swim from Chile to Argentina, across the frigid Beagle Channel, notorious for its powerful currents and whirl pools.

Upon arrival and assessing the one way distance at 1,6km, we make a decision to rather shoot higher and attempt a double crossing (there and back!).

3,2kms later in 8°C water and washed by the currents close to a kilometer away from our support crew on shore, we arrive back in Chile, frigid, but alive and elated.

A side note that, in order to do the swim legally, our passports needed to be pre-stamped FOUR times (1 – swimming out of Chile; 2 – swimming into Argentina; 3 – swimming out of Argentina; 4 – swimming back into Chile).

Strait of Magellan

2011 February

Strait of Magellan

After much prior homework from the two previous swimmers concluded that the water would be 4°C, we were extremely nervous for the 4km swim across this wild, icy body of water. None of us had ever swum that far in such cold water before and we were not convinced it was humanly possible, despite two prior reported successes.

Upon arrival at the shore, we were pleased to debunk the 4°C water temp reports and set off in 10°C waters to make the attempt. Still absolutely freezing and with the weather throwing everything at us, 1 hour and 10 minutes later, we succeeded.

Cape Horn – The Sailor’s Graveyard

2011 February

Cape Horn – The Sailor’s Graveyard

A 48hr return trip to the end of Earth in a little fishing boat, only to jump overboard when reaching what is widely revered as some of the worlds most dangerous waters!

We swam a 2,5km straight line connecting the two lighthouses on Cape Horn island and claimed the first swim around the southern most tip of South America.

I could write full novel around the experiences and learnings gained on this trip alone. But it was the friendships and comradery developed that really meant the most to me. Kieron Palframan, Andrew Chin, Toks Viviers and Ram Barkai.