Penang International Cross Channel Swim 2016

Penang International Cross Channel Swim 2016 Camera Roll

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Scandy Andy
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Most photogenic swimmer
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I ain’t giving you my number, girl!
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The boys chilling down by the beach

Penang’s annual cross channel swim is gaining traction again after a very long hiatus. Veteran swimmers fondly reminisce the early editions of this swim that took place decades ago.

Penang International Cross Channel Swim 2016

This year the Penang International Cross Channel Swim attracted over 300 swimmers to the coast of Penang! Visitors from all over the world flock to swim the shores of Malaysia, to brave the powerful currents of the Straits of Malacca, to make the crossing between the Penang Island and the mainland.

The aspect of these international events that I enjoy the most is the people you meet – their stories and motivations.

I was on the bus returning to Penang Island from Butterworth, after a morning of fun and excitement. Everyone was sweaty and exhausted – most fell asleep almost instantly. The bus ride was at least half an hour, but it certainly felt much longer. I ended up sitting next to this young Indian chap, and we struck up a conversation.

Turns out he hails from Kuala Lumpur, and he came all the way up to Penang all by himself just for this event! This was his very first major swimming event too.

He had recently taken up swimming in an effort to get some exercise and build some muscle, and he happened to glance upon this event on the internet. So he signed himself up and hopped on a bus bound for Penang.

The sheer act of travelling alone to an unfamiliar location usually deters most people, but what this guy did blows me away. Keep in mind the Penang International Cross Channel Swim is a 6 kilometre swim through salty, sea water with winds and currents and nothing on either side (or down below, for that matter). This boy had only started swimming in a controlled pool environment a few months ago!

To put things in perspective, the average Olympic sized swimming pool is 50 metres.

Olympic Size Swimming Pool
Your regular Olympic size swimming pool

And 6 kilometres is 6,000 metres, which works out to be 120 laps. 120 times back and forth across an Olympic size swimming pool.

Keep in mind the Penang International Cross Channel Swim is a 6 kilometre swim through salty, sea water with winds and currents and nothing on either side (or down below, for that matter)

I don’t know about you, but 20 laps is already a decent amount for me when I hit the pool.

So suffice to say, he didn’t manage to finish the swim. I don’t fault him for that at all.

He was under-prepared, under-equipped and not all that well-informed. But the important thing was he had a wonderful experience.

Now someone who did finish the grueling swim was Mr. Jose Luis Larrosa, the champion of the Penang International Cross Channel Swim. This man hightailed it across the sea in record time, without pause or hesitation.

Penang Cross Channel Swim
Presenting the champion – Mr. Jose Luis Larrosa

I had the opportunity to speak with him, and he is a world-class long distance swimmer that does an average of 20 kilometres in the water every week. That’s the sound of my mind being blown. Again.

Mr. Larrosa hails from Spain, from an elite group of dedicated swimmers that travel around the globe in search of the best spots to do lots and lots of swimming. His next port of call was Port Dickson the next day for another big swim. There is no doubt that swimming is his passion, and he lives and breathes for events such as this.

When asked about our local environment, he says he very much enjoyed swimming in tropical waters, although ours is a little warmer than he’s used to. He said he loves Penang and will be back more often. We might see him again in the coming year!

Another interesting story is this Japanese gentleman that had contacted me prior to this event. His name is Meisei, and he wrote to me months before asking about the first Penang Cross Channel Swim from 2015.

He lamented that he had missed out on last year’s event and really, really wanted to make it to this one. So I promised I’d keep him updated on the details of the swim this year.

And true to his word, he came. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person at the event, and when he spoke his name I remembered him instantly.

This is an email he sent me:

Meisei Email

Now I didn’t organise this event, but this email struck a chord with me. With a little more curiosity and openness on his part, I found out that his wife had become deeply ill back in 2015 and so Mr. Meisei did not attend the swim then.

He told me his wife loved to watch him swim. Since his wife’s passing, every time Meisei swam it reminded him of his wife. And so he dedicated this Cross Channel swim to her and memories of their time together.

If that’s not a touching love story, I don’t know what is.

And so now we turn to next year’s Penang International Cross Channel Swim! Tentative date is the 25th of March 2017. We look forward to seeing you there on the day! And hopefully the jellyfish stay away this time as well.

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