How True:  False Bay Is Tough.

How True: False Bay Is Tough.

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Ned Denison made a logo for his achievement of swimming across False Bay [see above]. Denison was the fifth person to make a successful unassisted solo crossing of the 34 km stretch of water in South Africa known for its rough conditions, cold water, jellyfish, blue bottles, seals, 13 species of sharks including Great White Sharks, and orcas.

Other members in the False Bay Club include:

1. 1989: Annemie Landmeters (Belgium) from Rooi Els to Simonstown in 9 hours 56 minutes
2. 2004: Steven Klugman (South Africa) from Rooi Els to Miller’s Point in 14 hours 15 minutes
3. 2006: Carina Bruwer (South Africa) from Rooi Els to Miller’s Point in 11 hours 58 minutes
4. 2007: Barend Nortje (South Africa) from Rooi Els to Miller’s Point in 9 hours 33 minutes
5. 2012: Ned Denison (Ireland) from Rooi Els to Miller’s Point in 11 hours 5 minutes
6. 2021: Ryan Stramrood (South Africa) from Miller’s Point to Rooi Els in 8 hours 39 minutes

Ned Denison swimming across False Bay about 80% across the bay in rough water conditions

The Cape Town gang was super,” recalled Denison in 2012. “Eight manned the boats with special thanks to Arend, the boat manager who called the weather as far from ideal. Hugh Tucker was the crew chief and Peter Bales from the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association has now been present on all five successful swims across False Bay. Fifteen local volunteers manned the departure beach at Rooi Els and another nine manned to arrival beach at Miller’s Point. The hospitality before, during and after the 11 hours 5 minute swim was nothing short of amazing.”

Tucker said, “For Ned, his previous [training] swims in False Bay helped him discover, explore, and put to bed all of his shark fears. During his actual swim, he had three fear sessions of less than 3 minutes each.”

Fear was a factor, but Denison made the best of his summer vacation to South Africa. But as with many successful marathon swims, preparation, an intelligent pacing strategy, and a mindset in the right place were keys. “I managed my pre-food/liquid perfectly. And just as well during the swim. It was my first long swim without puking. Years ago, I would start like a rocket and whimper home. In False Bay, I seriously picked up the last 3 kilometers [when the going was rough) and sprinted the last 400 meters which was a first in one of my long swims.”

The False Bay Swimming Association (FBSA) is responsible for the coordination, officiating and promotion of the swim. All information is available on its new website –

The vision of the Association is to bring the international marathon swimming world to Cape Town. “We believe the swim has all the required ingredients to be an epic international challenge,” said board member Ram Barkai.  “The FBSA is a non-profit association which will only focus on swims across the bay. This requires a focused effort to promote the swim locally and internationally as well as to regulate and record swims.”

The Association allows for various categories:

  • Solo skins category: swimmers wear 1 swimming cap, a pair of goggles and a standard swimming costume
  • Wetsuit category: swimmers may wear an Ironman neoprene wetsuit.
  • Solo category: single swimmers swim non-stop.
  • Relay category: Teams of a maximum of 6 swimmers who alternate legs in order every hour.

Barkai explains, “The solo skins are regarded as the elite category as the swimmer has no protection against the cold water and has to complete the swim unassisted from one side of the bay to the other. The Association also accredits certified pilots and observes to ensure safety of swimmers and uphold the integrity of the swim.”

The Association offers two swim routes:

The crossing season can be any time during the year; however, the swim windows are affected by weather conditions, most notably the persistent South Easter. The best windows are spring and autumn, when the prevailing wind is less frequent. Water temperature can vary from 11°C to 22°C, while unpredictable tides and currents can also pose a challenge to swimmers. Sharks are always a factor in the Cape waters, however, shark sightings have dropped significantly in recent years.

The swim routes are located in deeper waters where sharks are less frequently sighted and the swimmers are required to have shark shields on the boats.

The board of directors includes a team of experienced long distance and cold water swimmers: Ram Barkai, Sam Whelpton, Carina Bruwer, Kieron Palframan, Eddie Cassar, and Derrick Frazer.

Derrick Fraser is the first accredited pilot and the accredited FBSA observers include Ram Barkai, Sam Whelpton, Jean Craven, Patrick Wilke, Clint Le Suere, Derrick Frazer and Carina Bruwer.

The Association will support swimmers from across the world to attempt its own local English Channel. “Experienced swimmers out there are looking for new exciting swimming challenges – this swim will be very attractive,” said Whelpton who initiated the first relay across the bay.

I am so excited about this initiative, the False Bay swim has all the elements that make for an epic open water challenge, and it’s about time the swim becomes a global marathon swimming bucket list item,” said Carina Bruwer who completed the swim in 2006 in 10 hours 58 minutes.

For information please email or call Sam Whelpton on +27 (0) 72 171 8400 or Carina Bruwer on +27 (0) 82 486 1320.

For a swim application form, click here.

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Steven Munatones