150 Robben Island crossings for charity and still counting…

Howard Warrington completed 150 swims to Robben Island from Blouberg to raise funds for charity.

Sports enthusiast and swimmer Howard Warrington, from Somerset West, has became the first person to complete 150 Robben Island crossings.

And while he is the current world record holder for swimming the most 7.5km crossings from Robben Island to Blouberg, he is aiming to reach 160 swims by September, in an attempt to raise R150 000 for children’s charity, Distance for Difference.

Howard Warrington during his 150th Robben Island crossing.

He completed his 150th crossing on Monday June 24, and, on the last check in on Monday July 17, Mr Warrington had recorded two more crossings.

According to Mr Warrington, the swim is a tough one, with the freezing Atlantic water temperatures, encounters with sea life, and not knowing what is lurking beneath the water.

“I am one of those compulsive people – if I like something, I do it over and over. It’s the absolute challenge.”

To break the record is not easy, he said. Every swim has to be registered at SANParks.

This is a mental swim because you have to be determined to succeed despite your surroundings and circumstances.

Mr Warrington also doesn’t swim in a wetsuit – he wears a Speedo and a pair of goggles in water temperatures from 14 to 16 degrees Celcius in the Cape Town winter.

Mr Warrington grew up in Somerset West and would often take his surfboard or bicycle to the beach to spend time there – that’s where his love for the oceans started.

In 2015, he joined a group of people on Robben Island for the challenge, which was then known as the Freedom Swim, for the first time. “ I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I swam non-stop without taking a break and got hypothermia because of the cold water. While lying on shore under blankets to regulate my body temperature, I thought of all the things I could do to improve.”

He said the second crossing was not too bad, as he had trained to relax and concentrate during discomfort. “You have to be able to be uncomfortable, because during the swim, you get stung by jellyfish, and encounter seals and dolphins up close.”

In 2018, he challenged himself once more to swim the 560km English Channel from England to France, which took him 16 hours to complete. This, too, was for charity, which brought the idea to do something similar, closer to home.

Mr Warrington then became the first person to join the Swim4Hope, by Distance for Difference. The campaign was started last year, and he had raised R10 000 swimming from Steenbras River’s mouth to Gordons Bay.

Distance for Difference founder Stephan Pieterse said Mr Warrington’s fund-raising effort sparked hope, and because he had several Robben Island crossings under his belt, he decided to break the world record while raising funds for the organisation.

Mr Pieterse said they have raised about R45 000 and still need around R95 000 to reach their goal. They are appealing to companies to make pledges to reach their goal by September. To make a pledge, please visit www.d4dsa.co.za

Mr Pieterse, who is also an athlete, started Distance for Difference 18 years ago in reaction to the Asian Tsunami of December 26 2004. The disaster made him question what he could do to make a difference. He started using running to raise funds for local children’s charities. “I saw what the needs were in my hometown of Somerset West, and we support charities and foster homes in the area with a focus on children.”

He said thereafter, individual athletes, including cyclists and swimmers, joined the cause and followed suit. “Any sport linked to distances qualifies for the initiative.”

Distance for Difference also hosts two big sport fundraising events. The Gratitude Run is a bi-annual event started in 2016. It consist of a 10 km trail eun, a 5km fun run/walk and a 4-hour relay run. The next one is planned for 2024.

THE500, a biannual 24- hour cycling-and-spinning-challenge started in 2013, has up to now raised close to R3m for charities. This years THE500 will take place on Saturday October 21 at 11am, and Sun October 22 at 11am. Tickets are available on Quicket.