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First woman to swim across Algoa Bay did it all in the name of charity

swim across Nelson Mandela Bay
Carina Bruwer has become the first woman to swim across Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth.

Capetonian marathon swimmer, musician and mother-of-three Carina Bruwer has become the first woman to swim across Algoa Bay.

Bruwer completed the gruelling solo swim from Pollok Beach in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, to Bluewater Bay on the Coega side of Algoa Bay last week in support of Muzukidz, an organisation that offers underprivileged children the opportunity to learn the violin.

In a beautiful show of support, a group of children from the local Muzukidz project saw her off with some music and support at Pollok Beach, where she embarked on her challenge to become the first woman to swim across the Bay.

The swim took her 05:08 for a distance of about 19km.

“The kids just gave me so much joy and I entered the water with a sense of purpose,” Bruwer says. “It was not an easy swim – the temperature was a few degrees colder than I would have liked for a long swim like this, with the cool outside temperature and overcast conditions contributing to a consistent drop in body temperature.

“Thanks to the cause and the enthusiasm of the children, as well as the amazing support team from Adventure Swims ZA, I managed to stay positive, allowing me to keep up my stroke rate for most of the distance.”

Dolphins and whales were swimming within 200m of Bruwer, and the crew also spotted a hammerhead shark during the first half of the swim, but it posed no threat to the determined swimmer.

No swim is simple. This one was extra intricate due to the complexity of passing shipping lanes, harbours, and the high shark population.

Adventure swimmer Carina Bruwer

Sports company Adventure Swims ZA took care of all the planning and permissions pertaining to the crossing, and provided support in the form of two boats (one from Port Elizabeth-based Raggy Charters and the other a private vessel) and a team consisting of pilots, a power/rescue swimmer and a medic.

The crew included well-known local swimmers PJ Duffy, Kevin Richards and Ralph West. The Port Authority, NSRI, KB Surf lifesaving and Guardmed were on standby throughout the swim to assist in case of an emergency. The boats were equipped with multiple shark shields and there were dedicated shark spotter on each boat.

Carina is an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame nominee who was also ranked as one of the World Open Water Swimming Association’s top 50 most “daring, courageous and audacious” open water swimmers in the world in 2015 and 2018.

“No swim is simple,” she says. “This one was extra intricate due to the complexity of passing shipping lanes, harbours and the high shark population. I could not have dreamed of doing it without all the groundwork and assistance provided by Adventure Swims ZA, and the support of the people of PE has been simply heartwarming. It truly is the Friendly City and I would love to swim here again soon!”

Bruwer says she is elated about the success of the fundraiser: “We have exceeded the R25,000 mark and going strong; in fact I have increased the target and I know we can make this huge. Each additional R1,000 buys another violin, which literally changes at least one life”, she says.

Carina is herself a well-known musician who performs with the internationally renowned instrumental group Sterling EQ, She founded Swim For Hope in 2014 as a fundraising platform through which open water swimmers can dedicate a solo or group swim to a worthy South African cause.

Over the past 20 years, three male swimmers have completed the swim across Algoa Bay. PE swimmer and adventurer Kyle Main did the 20km crossing from Hobie beach to Coega twice (the first time in 2000), while Chris Malan completed a 15km crossing across the Bay in 2003 at the age of 15 – a route which internationally renowned Lewis Pugh also followed in 2006.

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