In The Open Water Of West Africa - From Tragedy To Triumph

In The Open Water Of West Africa – From Tragedy To Triumph

According to the archives International Swimming Hall of Fame, the history of open water swimming in West Africa goes back hundreds of years. Back in the 1400’s, West Africans learned to swim in the coastal and river villages from early ages. From Senegal to Angola, Africans were great watermen and regarded as the world’s greatest swimmers for men and women alike were brought up doing constant exercise and being comfortable in the open water.

History usually has a way of repeating itself.

Nowadays, there is a channel swim between the former slave-trading outpost of Goree Island and the shorelines of Dakar, the capital of Senegal on the Cap-Vert Peninsula along the Atlantic coast.

Sticking out from the westernmost city on the African mainland, more than 1,000 open water swimmers cross the 5K channel to Gorée, a small sparcely populated island in the annual Dak’Go event.

The swim is a Senegalese passion,” said Baba Fall with no left leg who swims with a team of paraplegic men. “Some people do this for fun, some people do it for sport. I do this to encourage other handicapped people, to show them what we can do. Every year, this is a challenge we face. At first, this was terrifying, but every year it becomes easier.”

Whereas slave ships used to dock near the finish line, now swimmers of all ages and various countries do. Whereas the trafficking of humans was prevalent in previous centuries, now the marketing of mobile phones and energy drinks is the purpose.

Senegal is a good place for nautical people,” told Mactar Samb to correspondent Drew Hinshaw. “Young men here join swim clubs as a way to socialize and exercise.”

Truly a remarkable change in human history and focus.

Photo and background courtesy of Drew Hinshaw.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones