Seamus Allardice took part in his first SwimRun in Wilderness on the 13th and 14th of September. The concept of swimming and scrambling (or Swambling) down the Kaaimans River was the hook, but the Torpedo SwimRun Wild provided far more adventure than just those four early kilometres.

See, how much fun does Swambling look?

We spent the weekend camping at SAN Parks’ Ebb and Flow campsite.

What is a SwimRun you may ask?

The answer is simple, it is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a sport in which you swim and run, without any transition or change of apparel, your way along a designated route. The routes can be ultra-long, like the original ÖTILLÖ SwimRun in Sweden, or short and manageable like the Torpedo SwimRun Val de Vie. Each event though features the same mix of adventure and competition, with athletes carrying everything they need with them throughout each run and swim.

The name explains it all, you swim and you run. You only stop to eat and drink at water points. There are no triathlon style transitions or complicated kit choices.

The Gear

Depending on water temperatures SwimRuns can be undertaken with or out without wetsuits. Other than that, the gear choices are pretty flexible. Most Torpedo SwimRun Wild competitors raced in trail shoes, though some chose to take part in surfing booties or water shoes as those provided more grip on the mossy rocks of the Kaaimans River. Some had invested in lightweight and quick draining SwimRun specific shoes even.

Trail shoes are all you really need. Though a wetsuit, swimming googles, pull buoys and hand paddles are handy optional extras.

Torpedo provides high visibility bibs and swimming caps, which most people chose to combine with swimming googles for the swims (which they carried for the runs). A popular addition to the race day gear was a pull buoy, which athletes modified so that the buoy could be strapped to their leg while running and rotated into place between their legs to provide additional buoyancy while swimming.

Note the pull buoy.

The final bit of gear, which was the only thing I would have liked to have utilised too, are hand paddles. A number of more experienced SwimRunners made use of hand paddles to speed up their swims and in hindsight they would have been very beneficial. As a strong but not fast or frequent swimmer I found my fingers got tired towards the end of the long swim legs and I could have done with the added paddle power.

A wetsuit helps with buoyancy and hand paddles make swimming a bit faster.

All about the Fun

The Torpedo SwimRun Wild is all about the adventure and the fun. It starts with a, six-kilometre-long, Friday afternoon Prologue in and on the banks of the Touws River. With the race village set up at SAN Park’s Ebb and Flow North Campsite the scene for the event was idyllic. We set out to explore the deep indigenous forests on the Prologue route which features five kilometres of running and a kay of swimming, all in the river. Taking part in teams of two we set out, many of us on our first SwimRun experience, into the wild. Beautiful forest singletracks led to quick swims in the cola-coloured waters of the Touws. While the air was warm the water was rather chilly and I quickly decided that there was no way I’d be racing without a wetsuit for the full twenty-six-kilometre route on Saturday.

Zane Schmahl setting out on the Torpedo SwimRun Wild Prologue.

I have no idea how long it took anyone else to complete the Prologue course but it took us just under an hour. Which absolutely flew by. It could not have been any more fun.

Swim number 1 of the weekend.

Into the SAN Parks Wilderness forest singletracks.

Great trails!

Acceptable swim avoidance techniques.

The cola-coloured waters of the Touws River were not exactly warm but were not too cold for non-wetsuit wearers either.

A Swamble Adventure

Torpedo SwimRun Wild’s big selling point is the Kaaimans Swamble. Which in case you missed the explanation is a cross between a swim and a scramble down the Kaaimans River gorge. It was the event’s big hook for me, what could be better than rock hopping down a river?

The Torpedo SwimRun Wild route.

It’s difficult to explain just how much fun the Swamble was. We ran from the Nelson Mandela University’s George Campus down the Seven Passes Road to the Kaaimans crossing and then Swambled all the way to the Kaaimans Restaurant, a kilometre from the ocean. It required constant concentration, while not swimming, because the surface was constantly wet and slippery. But that is what makes it an adventure. How Michael Lord and Llewellyn Groeneveld navigated the kloof ten minutes faster than the next best team is beyond me. Line choices and being brave/stupid enough to just plough through vegetation have dramatic affects on your overall speed. In my case taking it slow, taking lots of photos and videos was the best way to soak it all in.



And swimming.

The Kaaimans River gorge is spectacular.

It takes some energy to fight your way downstream though.

Torpedo SwimRun took us to places we would never usually get to see.

Did I mention it was tough but amazingly good fun?

After the Swamble we ran across the old Outeniqua Choo-Choo bridge, which crosses the Kaaimans River near the mouth, and descended onto the Wilderness beach. At the mouth of the Touws River we went back into the water for a quick swim before a winding run upstream provided some respite before the second longest swim of the race. Swimming a mile, or one-point-six-kilometres, up river against the current wasn’t easy. But when getting out I wasn’t most thankful for the buoyancy provided by my wetsuit. It was the protection from wind-chill which was the suit’s best benefit. The unseasonably cold wind was making life tough for the athletes who had chosen to start without a wetsuit on.

The Kaaimans bridge, which was once used by the Outeniqua Choo-Choo, is not for those who do not like heights.

Fortunately I am sort of okay with heights.

Spoiling a great view…

That is better!

Off the beach and into the Touws River for the first proper swim of the main event.

Torpedo SwimRun Wild is a team race, this oke was the stronger swimming in the team and was waiting for his partner after the 1.6km long swim up the Touws River.

Run, refuel at the Fairy Knowe Hotel’s PowerBar water point, swim and a long run later saw us to the banks of Island Lake. At one-point-seven-kilometres long that was the longest and most daunting swim of the race. Setting out across the lake the distance is foreshortened while standing, but once at water level the far bank approaches agonisingly slowly. Water safely, provided by Wilderness NSRI, are never far off though and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling totally safe throughout what was the longest contiguous swim of my life.

Island Lake here we come…

Prepping for the big swim. 1.7km across Island Lake. Photos do not do the distance justice.

From the north bank of Island Lake a final four-kilometre run took us back towards Ebb and Flow. Just outside the camp’s gate the route turned cruelly away from the finish line and required us to swim from the far side of the road. This added another one-hundred-metres or so to the last swim, but hey, it’s all in the name of adventure. That just made the post-race Cape Brewing Co beer all the sweeter.

Post-race Cape Brewing Co beers for the win!

The lamb spit roast dinner hit the spot too!

Find Your Next SwimRun Adventure

Torpedo SwimRun Moon: 27 October 2019

Torpedo SwimRun Cape: 17 November 2019

Torpedo SwimRun Val de Vie: 2 February 2020

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