My Crazy Swim – 24km and 9 and half hours in open water in the Philippine Sea at a ‘spritely’ 53 years old
Hi my name is Steve, I am British born and co-owner of Baha Ba’r, a new Restaurant / Bar on Siquijor Island Philippines; and at the age of 53 I have one foot still in my profession, mining and one foot looking to the future (the restaurantbar!). I have always had a keen interest in participating in endurance sports and since the age of 40 I completed 3 ironman triathlons but in the latter years as I approached 50 I gravitated towards long distance swimming. In 2014 I first attempted to swim the 24km from Apo Island, a black ominous speck of an island to Siquijor but failed miserably; the strong currents pushed me towards Mindanao (pushing me south instead of east). This year in better shape and more optimistic I entered the water at 7AM from Siquijor and started my swim to Apo island accompanied by my partner Gen and Tata, an accomplished paddler, in a small lead Kyak, and my support boat the Paterno, a 20 meter converted fishing boat (crewed by 5 guys drinking rum and goofing around!…but there apparently there to ‘save me’). Why would I want to do this? After having spent 4 years ‘on and off’ the island since 2011 I have often wondered if ‘it’ could be done and if ‘it’ could why not by me. I am not ‘passed it’ yet!….Also I wondered if anyone had done it before. The only way to find out would be to swim it. Also in the back of mind I knew 4 people had attempted the feat before and were never seen again. As the tide was running east to west last year I made the decision to attempt the swim east to west this year (Siquijor to Apo). Prior to jumping in the water I had trained in Vancouver in an outdoor 137m pool for 3 months, swimming up to 2-3 km a day but never more than 4km. I am not new to long distance swimming and knew that 50% of the battle was mental and not physical. On July Sunday July 25th having asked 3 guys to accompany me, 6 turned up to ‘ready the boat’ and witness their crazy boss attempt this 24km swim. I decided to leave from the tiny port of Tambisan on the northern tip of Siquijor and swim into the Bohol current towards Dauin which should ‘in theory’ take me along the coastline of Negros island towards Apo. As soon as I entered the water at I could not feel much current and in fact as I approached Apo the current was against me ever so slightly! In the first 2 hours I took to swimming 30 minute stints and taking a 5 minute break with a sports drink and / or food. I had taken about 20 litres of fluid split between isotonic, water and Pepsi. For food I took 10 gels, 2 kilos of bananas and several mangoes. The rules of long distance swimming are that you are not allowed to use floating devices (in warm water) or fins and not allowed to touch or hold on to boats. I felt great and the water was flat and cool but as the sun came up and I got further into the swim I took longer breaks and only started to feel a little fatigued after 12km. I think I covered the first 12 km in 4 hours and then I started to feel the current pushing me from side to side a little so I sent the Paterno 2km ahead so I could study the drift. There was no continual pattern but there was some current also pushing into me for sure. In the last 5 and a half hours I had to dig deep mentally and thought of things like family back home in the UK, my recently departed mother, my life in Siquijor and of course the bar and how to make it better. Physically I felt good but with experience I decided to make the breaks longer and I also switched between breaststroke, backstroke and crawl as the muscles grew more tired. As Apo started to loom larger I never let myself get complacent and the assumpe that I would make it as I knew from the last swim that the currents are very strong around Apo island. About 3 km from Apo Island I experienced something I was not anticipating….a wave of jellyfish of all shapes and colours….some of which could clearly inflict a sting. They were all over my body and I couldn’t avoid them but I had come too far to give up on account of a few stings, I just concentrated on not letting them near my face if possible. Even 2km out I still did not feel comfortable that I was ‘home and dry’ but Gen was getting excited and desperate for a pee so she piled on the encouragement while the guys in the Paterno went in to shallow water to catch fish!!!…. Finally after 9 hours and 28 minutes I pulled myself ashore on a tiny beach close to the village, tired but not entirely exhausted but safe to say I don’t want to do that again in a hurry! However, what about a swim around Siquijor island! 80 km or so!….in under 3 days! After a month no one has come to the bar and told me it has been done before so maybe, just maybe I am the first to swim to Apo Island!