Eastern Province

The iconic pyramid and lighthouse in the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth.

 Aquatic sports are very popular in the Eastern Province. It has a long coastline with many beautiful beaches and tidal pools, suitable for swimming. The Eastern Province used to extend from Mossel Bay in the west, to Grahamstown and the Border province to the east. The northern border was the Orange river and the Orange Free State lay beyond that.

As the Duch settlement at the Cape grew and cattle farmers migrated eastwards along the coast, new districts were created at Graaf Reinett in 1789 and Uitenhage, founded in 1804.

Port Elizabeth was founded when the 1820 British Settlers arrived, and it grew to become the first commercial centre of the Cape Colony. It was also the venue for the first South African swimming championships and Currie Cup water polo tournament held in 1900.

The settlers created villages at Grahamstown, King William's Town, Somerset East, and other smaller centres. They set up English-style schools, where aquatic sports were popular. Some of these centres, like King Willaim's Town, became part of the Border province. The Afrikaner population that remained behind after the Great Trek of 1836 created their own schools, as they objected to the Anglicization activities of the British Imperial government which tried to force their children to learn in English. 

Today some of those schools are well-endowed private schools, where aquatic sports flourish. The majority, however, are state schools that struggle to survive, due to declining funding and the changing demographics of the pupils and staff. 

 The Eastern Province Amateur Swimming Association (EPASA) dates from 1898. Although not traditionally a major force in South African aquatic sports, the province has produced a number of champions, including two world record holders and an Olympic gold medallist.

Today Port Elizabeth is a major international venue for triathlons. Biathle and biathlon is also a popular sport in Afrikaans schools.

Port Elizabeth

Organised aquatic sports arrived here with the British in the 1820's. The first South African national championships were held here in 1900, at the height of the Boer War, and the South African Amateur Swimming Union was founded here in 1899.


Situated in the Swartkops river, Uitenhage benefitted from a municipal swimming pool and a swimming club, both established in 1898. 


Grahamstown town had a number of well funded private schools, but the area has an average summer temperature of 20 degrees - down to 5 degrees in the winter. Without an heated (indoor) swimming pool the area was always going to struggle to excel in aquatic sports.


Mosselbaai (or Mosselbay) sent a team to the South African swimming championships in 1920, and today forms a vibrant part of competitive swimming in the region. 


The historic town of George is the centre of commerce in the South Western Districts (SWD), and has a number schools that particiapte in aquatic sports.  Besides swimming and water polo, biathlon is also a popular aquatic sport.

Smaller centres

Besides the towns listed above, there are many smaller towns where aquatic sports history has been made in the Eastern Province.