Ice Milers and Mad Swimmers

Besides the exploits of Lewis Pugh - the legendary Camps Bay High school graduate, a completely new chapter in open water swimming history of South Africa began when the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) was formed in 2009 by Capetonian Ram Barkai together with his swimming mates Andrew Chinround, Toks Viviers, Ryan Stramrood and Kieron Palframan, with a vision to formalise swimming in icy water.

In 2009 Barkai introduced the Ice Mile, swimming in 4 degrees in Zurch, and in 2010 a group of South Africans of swimmers, including Cape Town legend Theo Yach, completed the first Ice Miles at Fraserburg, near Sutherland in the Karoo. At the 2012 Fraserburg swim the temperature was recorded at minus 5 degrees!

2009 also saw the founding of Mad Swimmers - a group of swimmers raising money for charity by extreme swimming, including not limited to icy swimming. Their first impromptu swim was across the Straight of Gibraltar, previously also swum by South African swimmer Beth Wiid in 1956.

Their website explains: In 2009 Jean Craven and Tim Ziehl took a bet from their friends that they could swim across the Strait of Gibraltar, linking Europe with Africa. They completed the 17 km crossing from Spain to Morocco in just 4 hours and 22 minutes. Feeling sorry for taking betting monies collected from their friends, they decided to donate the money to various children’s charities and orphanages.

Ram Barkai
jean craven ice swimmer
Jean Craven

To date their team has grown to 18 swimmers, and they have an impressive list of extreme swims to their credit - crossing the Dead Sea, and the highest ever swim. On 5 December 2016, five Madswimmers did the highest swim in history in lake Tres Cruces Norte on the border of Chile and Argentina in the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 5909 m above sea level, 700 m higher than pioneer swimmer Lewis Pugh on Mt Everest in 2010. 

Fraserburg, Northern Cape

Twenty five cold water swimmers successfully completed a record-setting swim on 17 July 2010 in an icy 4C dam near Sutherland – the coldest town in South Africa -- to complete the first ever Speedo Ice Swim Africa. The swim marked the launch of the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) by veteran extreme cold water swimmer Ram Barkai.

‘Ysbere’ swem, bibber vir liefdadigheid

19 Julie 2019

Daar is Saterdagmiddag weer gebibber toe 425 mense by die Bundukamp naby Ventersburg aangetree het vir die jaarlikse Ysbeerswem.

Die Vrystaatse winter was die swemmers genadig en hulle kon op ’n amperse somersdag die ysige waters van die Sandrivier aandurf.

Felix Burri, hooforganiseerder, het kort voor die swem sy baard opgeveil ten bate van Veterane Hoop, ’n projek ten bate van veterane van die Grensoorlog.

Burri, wat Saterdag 60 jaar oud geword het, se baard is vir R4 900 verkoop.

“Maar toe vang hulle my met ’n slap riem en veil my hare ook ten bate van die veterane op vir R1 600,” sê Burri.

“Ek het op een dag van Jopie Adam na ’n tronkvoël verander.”

Burri sê hy beplan om totdat hy 70 word self nog te swem. Die oudste deelnemer Saterdag was Johan Pretorius (68) van Virginia.

Kinders moet ouer as tien wees om te kan deelneem.

Burri en nog 13 swemmers het wéér Saterdagaand kort voor middernag aangetree – vir die eerste nagswem nog. Burri sê dit was deksels koud want dit was vriespunt terwyl die water so 8 °C was. ’n Groot kampvuur en ’n wonderlike gees het almal weer laat warm kry, sê hy.