Helping others learn to swim

2019-05-28 06:01
Ryan Stramrood.PHOTO: Caleb Bjergfelt

Ryan Stramrood.PHOTO: Caleb Bjergfelt

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Inspirational speaker and extreme swimmer Ryan Stramrood from Constantia is celebrating his 100th swim crossing between Robben Island and the mainland by donating to children so that they can learn to swim.

Stramrood has become the second person to swim 100 crossings in a time of two hours and 18 minutes.

To commemorate this 100th crossing, profits from the sale of the first 100 pairs of his slip slops are being donated to Arafat Gatabazi to assist in his work teaching Cape Town children from a street home and orphanage to swim, in an effort to get them off the streets.

Gatabazi is a refugee from Congo who hitchhiked to South Africa when he was 17-years-old after fleeing his home during a raid.

He was included in a swimming programme while staying at the Homestead shelter and he is now focused on sharing the therapeutic benefits he received from learning to swim.

Gatabazi explains: “When you live in a children’s home, it is always difficult to be positive but when you have someone that believes in you, it changes the way you see yourself. This is what swimming did for me and now I am trying to share it with other kids in similar situations, hoping to make a difference in their lives.”

Stramrood reached this milestone last Thursday and follows his late friend and swimming companion Theodore Yach, who made the swim 108 times.

Stramrood dedicated his 7.4 km swim to Yach, saying: “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).”

He said: “Totally elated to be on the beach. No Robben Island Swim is ever easy. Today was my 100th and I’ve made it. It was tough out there, it was cold and it got choppy, so I am very, very happy.”

Fellow extreme swimmer and environmental campaigner Lewis Pugh accompanied Stramrood in a support boat and said: “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 three hours and it becomes five hours. It shows Ryan has got real mental fortitude and ‘vasbyt’.”

Andrew Chin, chairman of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA), explains what happens in the background at a Robben Island crossing: “There is a lot of behind the scenes stuff that happens. Boats need to be organised, seconds need to be found and permissions obtained. To be officially recognised by CLDSA, swimmers need to adhere to certain rules. These include the right attire, speedo briefs (or similar) and a single cap, no assistance from the boat such as touching the boat, and having the correct boating procedures followed.”

V The slip slops can be purchased at:


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