The 70-Year Old Swimmer

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In the year 1969, man first walked on the moon, Bryan Adams bought his first real six-string, and a 28-year-old Capetonian named Peter Bales found his niche after he emerged, exhausted, from the icy Atlantic on the beaches of Woodstock.

Bales and a few friends had braved the frigid waters and writhing currents that lie between Robben Island and the mainland, discovering a challenge that tested their minds and bodies against distance, depth, temperature and nature’s unpredictability. A few months later, they founded the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA), which continues today, with members – powered by their arms, legs and mental resolve – ploughing through the waters around the Cape Peninsula as an idea of fun.

Later that year, Bales became the first South African to swim “the Everest of swimming” – the English Channel – where he crossed one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes from England to France in just over 13 hours.

Now, at the age of 72, Bales is chairman of the CLDSA and still swims regularly, clocking a kilometre-and-a-half five times a week.