Behind The Scenes Of An Open Water Event

Behind The Scenes Of An Open Water Event

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Nicolene Steynberg is one of those special people who work hard behind the scenes as a passionate volunteer who helps make open water swims happen.

But the big difference between Steynberg and most other dryland crew is that the swims she works on are usually located far, far away from her native South Africa. She has to Skype, telephone, and email to organize the swims that she participates in, from Israel and Tanzania to California and Argentina.

The next swim Steynberg got into is the 10 km Pan-American Colibrí Swim, a cross-border swim and charity swim in the Pacific Ocean from Imperial Beach near San Diego, California, USA to Playas de Tijuana in Tijuana, Mexico on May 5th.

She discussed her involvement:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Why do you want to participate in this swim?

Nicolene Steynberg: Being on the organising side, I agreed to assist Madswimmer with the logistics of this swim when Jean Craven asked me to get involved. Mainly because I know Jean doesn’t get Madswimmer involved in mainstream swims, his swims are hand-picked and meaningful. My next step was to google the Colibrí Centre for Human Rights, the cause for the swim.

And then finally go read up why people migrate: poverty, war, natural disasters, political instability, separation from family members, etc.

That made me ask the question: Would I migrate if my family faces constant danger or misfortune? Yes I would. Is it reasonable to expect favourable conditions to do so? Yes it is. So then, yes, Pan-American Colibrí Swim is meaningful, worth casting a stones to help make a ripple to make this world a better place for all. Tides turn, we need one another, also across borders.


Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Are you looking forward to the swim?

Nicolene Steynberg: I am not a swimmer, thanks goodness. Open water swimmers have daring personalities. I stick to dry ground. But yes I am looking forward to watch this swim from behind my desk, using all the social media channels so easily accessible to all these days (in privileged conditions).

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How are cross-border swims different from your typical marathon swims and channel swims?

Nicolene Steynberg: From a logistical point, cross-border swims differ in that people from various nationalities are involved. With the Pan-American Colibrí Swim, we have South Africans, Americans, Israelis, Mexicans, and a New Zealander. The message reaches so much further – across many borders.

People bring different skills to the table, we learn from one another. In a way it is also hectic to accommodate all differences and sentiments but in the end an amazing experience. Lots of fun: the Mexicans will for example all of a sudden continue the group whatsapp conversation in Spanish. We, for instance, concluded on yellow swimming caps and then all of a sudden they talk about the amarillo caps, which leaves me, the Afrikaans speaking chap, with complete confusion on why the colour changed.

Cross-border swims also force you to get to know the local people around the area of the planned swim. The Pan-American Colibrí Swim introduced me to the most amazing people around Imperial Beach and Tijuana: lifeguards, local authorities, kayakers, people from Friendship Park right at the US-Mexican border, the Tijuana National Estuarine Reserve, and many more who advised us on local matters.

One meets them via email only, but they become like family and completely part of the organising team. Without local help, we will make uninformed decisions and cross-border swims will be watered down. To me, meeting the local people was one of the best experiences of the Pan-American Colibrí Swim.


Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Is there anyone in the group who you have not met before and who you wish to meet and swim with?

Nicolene Steynberg: Being a non-swimmer, I seldom meet the swimmers in person. My job is done from behind my desk, but in that way us organisers get to know them all, quite personally well, because we talk to all, all the time, using all electronic communication systems at our dispose to help making the swim happen.

For more information about her next swim, visit here.

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Steven Munatones