Paul Blackbeard

Triple Springbok legend

This article hardly does justice to all of the exploits and successes of Paul Blackbeard. Paul was born in Durban on the 19th February 1958. His first nationals was in Port Elizabeth in 1972, and he continued to compete for Natal until 1983 - finishing second in the 100 fly. The return of South Africa to the Olympic Games in 1992 even brought suggestions of a comeback.

The Queens Park Amateur Swimming Club review included this about Paul: ‘The achievements of the Club's greatest son, Paul Blackbeard, have been so extraordinary, that we believe they deserve special mention over and above what has already been written. Paul joined Queen's Park as an 11 year old in 1969 and from the beginning played a very prominent part in the Club's revival during the early 70's. Before he turned 14, he had broken on innumerable occasions all the Natal Juvenile records with the exception of the two breaststroke events. He later went on to rewrite the Natal record book for all the under 16 events, excepting the breaststroke and 800m freestyle, and then finally in senior competition he established Natal open records for 100, 200 and 400m freestyle, 100 and 200m butterfly, 200 and 400m individual medley, but in addition also created South African records over all these distances with the exception of 100m freestyle.  In addition, there was one stage in his career when he held as many as thirteen South African Age Group records at one time, a feat unequalled by anyone else in South African swimminghistory.

At nationals at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in 1975, Paul won 9 gold medals!

Nearly all his records were accomplished without the aid of anti-ripple lanes and high starting blocks and, despite the ever improving standards of swimming at all levels, it has only been 10 years later that his records have started to fall. His name none-the-less still remains against several events in the record books but of even greater importance, he is still swimming for his Club and the province and he still continues to win titles- in this regard he won his first Natal Championship title in the Juvenile division in 1971 and since that time has won a massive number of 61 Natal titles and has taken his place in 37 Club relay teams to win championship events. At a national level, he has won 38 gold medals at the South African Championships spread evenly between individual and team race events. To date he has swum in the Natal senior team on 40 occasions and for South Africa no less than 9 times (5 of them as team captain). Arising directly from his ability as a swimmer he has also represented South Africa at surf lifesaving and still-water lifesaving to become a triple Springbok, representing his country in 3 separate sports. During the thirteen years Paul Blackbeard has been with Queen's Park he has accomplished many unique feats associated with swimming in this country, but throughout he has remained a good sport, absolutely dependable, well-mannered and above all else extremely loyal to his Club. In recognition of the immense honour he has brought to Queen's Park, the Club bestowed on him its most honoured award, that of honorary life membership, in 1975 and he thereby became the first member of the Club to receive such an award while still wholly involved in competitive swimming.’

Paul’s top result in the National Swim Titles was in Johannesburg in 1975 where he won 9 Gold Medals being  the 100m and 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m and 400m individual medal and 3 relay gold’s in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle and the 4x100m medley relay. Who knows if this could have been 11 medals as in 1975, the 50m races were not in the Nationals?

with fellow Springboks Esme Oosthuisen and Steve Nathan - Durban 1976

From newspaper headlines during the 70’s/early 80’s.

In date order, they read as follows:

·       Blackbeard clips three more records

·       A Special Breed – Paul and Sue

·       Dedicated Paul Reaches for National Swim Titles

·       Paul takes to the Surf

·       Blackbeard Stars as Swim Records Tumble

·       Splash! Paul Cracks National Record

·       Paul robs Peter (this was the 400m freestyle SA Record)

·       Paul provided the Swimming Treat

·       Paul leads field as SA age group swim records fall

·       Paul Blackbeard – a champion of the Future

·       Paul Smashes Five Records

·       Missing Class Wins Gold for Paul (15)

·       Swim Successes for Paul

·       Paul Strikes Top Form

·       Blackbeard Shows How

·       Paul is in line for two titles

·       Paul in Superb Form

·       Blackbeard is Supreme

·       Paul in line for No. Four

·       Sue, Simon and Paul… with the World at the feet

·       Blackbeard murders old mark

·       Paul was Natal’s Hero

·       Bye Bye Blackbeard. Paul set for America

·       Paul wins gruelling swim marathon

·       Paul’s Place in History

·       Paul’s World Record

·       Blackbeard flies in from Europe for Queen’s gala

·       Paul’s two Titles

·       Paul Pips Simon

·       Pirate Paul Conquers Surf

·       Blackbeard Triumphs

·       Blackbeard The Great

·       Blackbeard Takes Five

·       Blackbeard Makes it Six

·       Paul’s Gold makes an Arab sheik envious

·       Blackbeard and company confirm supremacy at National Championships

·       It’s Blackbeard the Pirate

·       Paul Sings His Way to Victory

·       Paul won’t quit S.A.

·       Blackbeard the Great

·       Paul in Line for Award

·       Paul goes out in fine Style

·       Paul gets then going

·       Paul goes for 3 swim titles


·       All eyes on Blackbeard

·       Paul pulls off a real thriller

·       Final Gold’s for Paul

·       Double Gold for Blackbeard

·       Paul display’s early form

·       Blackbeard inches in as records fall

·       Paul Blackbeard Eclipsed

·       No Luck for Paul

·       Blackbeard leads SA Swim side

·       Blackbeard drama sequel

·       Paul Leads Swimming’s Gold Brigade

·       Challenges aim for Blackbeard’s title

·       Have we been fair to the champ?

·       I was Lucky – Blackbeard

·       Now Paul swims for the enjoyment

·       Paul wins a record seventh time

·       Paul faces stiff task

·       Record bid by Bok Blackbeard

·       Northerns ready to swoop on Blackbeard

·       Paul Blackbeard set the pace…and a new record

·       Police Sportsman of the year – Paul Blackbeard

·       Bye, Bye Paul

·       It’s Paul yet again

·       Paul Back in action

·       Blackbeard nearing peak

·       Butterfly Paul to swim again

·       Paul has more time to train

·       Blackbeard shows ‘em

·       Blackbeard’s back and the records are tumbling

·       Paul back on top

·       Two-Tile Paul; proves he’s Tops

·        ‘There’s no one to replace him’

·       Veteran Paul still a winner

·       A record for Blackbeard in 50m dash

·       Fly-Away Paul Brings ‘em Home

·       Paul Blackbeard – a gruelling road to Victory

·       It’s Paul and Pat, and a very strong team

·       Paul Blackbeard – a sad year for SA swimming as this evergreen retires

·       Blackbeard joins ‘Masters’ ranks

·       Splash! Training about to start for Bok’s water baby (birth of Bianca)

·       They’re back in the swim. Blackbeard, Harker turn back the clock

·       Blackbeard back with a bang

·       Blackbeard is the man to watch

·       Evan Sim edges out Blackbeard

·       Blackbeard is back for Natal

·       Blackbeard’s objective: to sink Transvaal

·       Paul and Bev line up for Masters

·       Blackbeard: SA lagging behind

·       Blackbeard on Top

·       Blackbeard back in the swim

·       Paul wants team title back

·       Paul congratulates Mark Bowler after he clips his 19-year-old Natal u14 100m freestyle record by 0,01 second

·       Blackbeard campaign begins

·       Paul captains big swim team

·       Win for Blackbeard (13th time in 20 years!)

·       Former SA swimming champion Paul Blackbeard, once ranked 14th in the world, swimming his way back into the record books at the age of 34.

·       Blackbeard to present petition

·       Like father like son (picture in the water with Lance)

As captain of the Springbok swimming, one of the letters from the team manager said “thank you for the exemplary manner in which you carried out your duties as captain. You took a great deal of responsibility off my shoulders thus greatly adding to my personal enjoyment of the trip. I honestly feel that we were a happy team and much of the credit for this is due to you as captain. It has been my experience in the past that many leading swimmers make indifferent captains as they are so tied up in their own success or otherwise, but you certainly proved the exception and proved to be an ideal captain in every way.”

At 25 years of age, Paul started the Masters Swimming organisation in South Africa getting Paddy McDowell, the ex-President of Natal swimming to run as the President and Paul as his Vice-President. This then became the structure for the new national body. In 1990, 22 South Africans were able to join American Masters club's as second claim members so that we could attend and compete in the 3rd Fina World Masters Championship held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 4th world masters was in Indianapolis where Paul had once accepted (but declined due to his fathers health) a swimming scholarship with Doc Councilman who was at that time the top American Swim Coach. The 5th World Masters was in Montreal (the first Olympics he would have swam in if there was no South African sports boycott).  At the10th Fina World Masters in Perth, Paul won the title of World Champion for the 100m Butterfly.
Masters has also been good to Paul in lifesaving. At the time of writing, he is the current World Surf Race Champion (50-54). He has previously won numerous national and international surf race titles. Paul is also the new Masters World Record holder for the 200m Obstacle race (a pool lifesaving event).This was an event where, 38 years earlier he had broken the open world record in Barcelona, Spain. He was awarded the State President’s Award for this result.

Paul never saw himself as a distance swimmer although at the peak of 'Hell Week' during December training he was doing 20km a day in the pool (over 100km in the week)! His first South African record at the age of 14 was in the 400m freestyle where he paced his old training partner Peter le Roux for 300m and then sprinted the last 100m, always preferring the sprint distances.
During his early years of swimming, there were two annual open water swimming events. The first was the Midmar Mile. An event that began in 1974  and is now recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest open water swimming event attracting nearly 20,000 swimmers. Paul won the event in 1977. The second annual event was the 'Mainstay Swim'. This was a 3.5km swim from Pirates (his surf club) to South Beach with a compulsory stop at North Beach. Paul won this race numerous times. Paul has also swan the Red House River Mile in Port Elizabeth (Africa's oldest open water swimming event) and the famous Robben Island swim. He was in the team that won the relay event, but it was extreme and not something to do again. Paul’s first real experience of a long open water sea swim was The Rottnest Channel Swim in Perth. Rottnest Island was also used as a prison and although it was rumoured that some prisoners swam back to the mainland, there is no proof that any did. The Rottnest Swim is a 20km swim and this was the first time he had trained for long distance swimming with Shelley Taylor-Smith, the winner of seven consecutive FINA Marathon World Cups.  Paul’s first solo Rotto swim after months of training with Shelly began at 5.45am with the seeded males. Very dehydrated by the end, Paul finished in a credible 7th position at the age of 52. This race is the largest open sea swim in the world.  The next year he won the overall duo category and the year after, won the mixed team category.

Today Paul still swims and makes the headlines - finishing third in the 2014 Rottnest Channel swim - behind two under-30 year olds.

Paul Blackbeard: Circle of Valour winner

Paul Blackbeard won the Circle of Valour for his more

PAUL Blackbeard (53), a Springbok swimmer, won the Circle of Valour award for sport.

04 October 2011

He was awarded his first cap for KZN in 1972 and his first Springbok cap in 1973. He went on to earn nine Springbok caps, and was captain five times.

He also attained Springbok colours for surf lifesaving and stillwater lifesaving. He was also the winner of nine gold medals at the 1975 nationals.

Paul now owns a management consulting business (Argil) in Australia, which is focused on South East Asia. He worked for 34 years in the corporate world in Africa, Europe, America and Asia and after 'retiring' at age 50 and going sailing for a few years, he missed the intellectual stimulation of business so started his own.

The focus of the business is working at a CEO/ board level and senior management to unlock business growth from its key customers and helps their organisations deliver.

Paul encourages youngsters to be clear and focused about what they want to succeed. His secret to success is hard work and having a good support structure and the ability to focus body and mind for peak performance.

2015 - Paul Blackbeard swimming the Midmar Mile - an event he won back in 1977.


Posted by Paul in FB : A few weeks ago I was the swimmer of the meet at the state champs. This week 5 golds (all new PanPacific records) and 2 silvers. The 5km surf swim tomorrow. Overall winner of the PanPacs 5km ocean swim in tough conditions. Also in the race was Trent Grimsby, the English Channel record holder (which he did in 6 hours and 55 minutes!). Perth’s Paul Blackbeard receives some tips from his coach before the ocean swim at Mermaid Beach

The first swimmer to cross the finish line overall in the 5km race was 58-year-old Paul Blackbeard from Perth. Having grown up in South Africa, Paul is a veteran of the surf and also a former South African national (pool) swimming champion.

“This is my first games and it looks a bit rough out there but we’re all in the same boat and I’m used to swimming in the surf,” he said.

Paul considers the ocean swim at JPPMG a fun training session to start the season and is enjoying catching up with friends at the games.

Paul Blackberad with Australian and former Natal coach Terry Gulliver

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