Aquatic sports history of South Africa

This history of swimming and related aquatic sports in South Africa covers 100 years sociological, historical and physical elements of the story that really began in 1899, when the South African Amateur Swimming Union was established. In Southern Africa, which includes territories like Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique and Angola (former Portuguese colonies) and South West Africa (now Namibia) as well as other neighboring states, competitive aquatic sports like water polo, swimming and diving were started during the late 19th century by the British. The earlier Dutch and French colonists and indigenous cultures, left no record of organised sports.

Creating a complete history of all aquatic sports in South Africa is beyond the scope of this site. The focus is mainly on swimming, with some reference to diving, waterpolo and sychronised swimming. Lifesaving (still water) was traditionally part of all swimming carnivals, and many coastal swimers participated in surf lifesaving competitons, while many also took part in bi/triathlons. A number of articles about related topics, like sports politics, are included.   Continue Reading →

One significant element in the creation of the this site was locating 100 years of results from the annual South African Championships, from old newspaper reports, personal archives, publications and websites.  Continue Reading →

Pools and Places - the swimming pools, rivers, dams and beaches where aquatic history was made, such as the pier in the Table Bay harbour and Cape Town's dry-dock are recorded here.  Pools were initially indoor and commercial, until municipalities built sprawling Lido-style competition pools, and some schools developed their own pools.     Continue Reading →

Despite the cold winters of the highveld, swimming has flourished in southern Africa, as only 11 countries in the world have more swimmers inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Today swimming is practised in many places and formats.  Continue Reading →

South Africans inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame


The history of swimming, diving, water polo, synchro and lifesaving.

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Articles about aquatic sports, people and events in South Africa.

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A hundred years of national aquatic sports championships.

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Swimming Champions from South Africa

Since Jenny Maakal won a bronze medal at the 1932 Olympic Games, South Africans have to win medals and set world records. Many Springbok swimmers set world records or won medals at international events, while others gained fame as aquatic stars outside the swimming pools. Since swimmers began to take up scholarships to compete for American universities in the 1950's, numerous of these Exiles never came back to their home country, and some even competed for other countries. However many South African champions chose not to emigrate, and by competing in their homeland, they helped to develop aquatic sports locally.

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