Conquering Fears Around Cape Point
When visiting the Cape Peninsula’s southernmost tip, swimming in the treacherous seas below the lighthouse – especially with tall, rocky cliffs towering high above – is not something that would immediately come to mind for many people. Yet on Thursday 23 July, a group of eight brave long-distance swimmers did just that, swimming from Diaz beach around Cape Point and up to Buffels Bay.
It’s known as the Cape Point swim and has been completed by fewer than 100 people. INN8’s Head of Distribution, Georgina Smith, is now one of them.
“Every year I try to do something that really scares me” explains Georgina.
“There’s no doubt that fear is crippling; it’s blinding and it’s disorientating and confusing – it’s what stops most people doing scary things. But from experience I now know I can choose to either be afraid or not be afraid, because fear is a choice.
“Trying to set aside fear does not remove the challenging and potentially disastrous situation you’re in, it just brings clarity to the process of trying to navigate that difficult circumstance.
“On the Monday (20th July), we were informed the weather window would open on the Thursday and I didn’t have a chance to think about it. It had been an 18-month wait for the conditions to be right and I just thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? If it all goes wrong, I’ll just get on the boat’,” said Georgina.
Being one of the most unpredictable and challenging routes in South Africa, the 8km stretch is also logistically tricky. Swimmers must first launch from a boat in front of Diaz Beach and swim through huge waves to the shore. “That was the scariest part. I lost my goggles and my hat getting in as the waves were enormous and full of kelp. Think Noordhoek waves on a big day.”
It’s only then that the swim officially starts, with the swimmers returning through the pounding breakers to the deep water. This section is tough. The water is choppy with big swells and unpredictable currents and the water temperature mostly hovers between 12°C and 16°C which can be extremely uncomfortable for those swimming without a wetsuit – as Georgina did. “I made life hard for myself by following the CLDSA rules of no wetsuit.”
“As you’re swimming, conditions can change in a heartbeat,” explained Georgina. “It’s like swimming in a washing machine; there are patches where you think you haven’t moved for 45 minutes and other areas where the current takes you and you feel like you’re flying.”
Once around the point, swimmers have moved from the rougher Atlantic coast to the False Bay coastline, an area that used to be a no-go zone for swimmers due to great white shark activity. Great whites have since become less prolific in False Bay due to, among other reasons, dwindling food resources – but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
According to the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA), the Cape Point swim was first completed in 1979 by world-renowned American swimmer Lynne Cox in just under 3 hours. Georgina clocked in at 02:27:58.
“When I sign up for these things, I’m very conscious of the amygdala region of my brain, conditioned through thousands of years of evolution and whose job it is to keep me alive. It tells me I’m crazy and I should really just stay home and stay safe. But recognising and acknowledging the role of the amygdala, overriding it, and consciously setting aside the fear and doing it anyway is how I show up. In my experience, the mind gives up way before the body and if you can keep a strong head, you’ll probably make it.
“When faced with new situations, fear can quickly paralyse people into inactivity. And it’s the same at work. Instead of retreating into fear, I am able to more easily recognise this now-familiar emotion, park it to one side and go straight into action – be it asking for help to find the answer, making a tough decision, or just doing the work.
“Conquer your fears with your thoughts and actions and anything is possible,” says Georgina.
“Margaret Thatcher put it so well when she said, ‘Watch your thoughts as they become your actions, watch your actions as they become your habits, watch your habits as they become your character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny’.”
Congratulations on yet another remarkable accomplishment, we cannot wait to see what you do next year!
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