Besides the expoits 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 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!
Click here to see the list of Ice Mile swimmers.
Barkai was nominated as World Open Water Swimming man of the Year in 2012.
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.
2009 also saw the founding of Mad Swimmers - a group of swimmers raising money for harity by extreme swimming, including not not limited to icy swimming. Their first impromptu swim was across the Straight of Gibraltar, previously also swum by Beth Wiid in 1956.
Their website explains: In 2009 Jean Craven (below) 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.
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, the highest ever swim
The highest altitude swim is 5,915 m (19,406.13 ft) and was achieved by Jean Craven, Herman van der Westhuizen, Chris Marthinusen, Evan Feldman and Milton Brest (all South Africa), at Tres Cruces Norte, Chile, on 5 December 2015.
Click here to see a video of the Madswimmers in Chile.