Local sets new record for lowest swim in history

Herman van der Westhuizen swimming in the Dead Sea. Photo: Madswimmer

A global effort to save the Dead Sea saw a local swimmer set a new world record last week for the lowest swim in history in the Dead Sea.

Madswimmer Herman van der Westhuizen, from Waterkloof, and 27 other swimmers swam at 430m below sea level for 16km last Tuesday.

Madswimmer had 10 representatives swimming.

Madswimmer is a group of ordinary South Africans doing extreme swims to raise money for children’s charities.

Speaking to Rekord, Van der Westhuizen said the weather was perfect for the occasion.

“The temperature was not a problem, but swimming with a mask was,” he said.

The Dead Sea waters has a salt content 10 times that of the typical ocean. If swimmers swallowed only a few drops of water it could cause severe breathing problems so swimmers used a special mask for protection.

“Fortunately, before the record attempt, I practiced swimming with the mask, but it was very awkward.”

Van der Westhuizen said he did not know what to expect in the Dead Sea.

“We were the first group to attempt crossing the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel, so it was nerve-racking.”

Madswimmer spokesperson Nicolene Steynberg explained the swimmers set sail on rubber ducks from the Israeli shore at Ein Gedi to an identified delta across Jordanian borders in the Dead Sea, and started the 16km swim back to Israel.

Van der Westhuizen said all swimmers arrived back as one team on Israeli territory after the seven hour swim.

“Jordan permitted the crossing of its borders before our swim, but the border crossing took place in the waters,” he said.

“It was tough, we took it slowly in the first two hours. After that, you kind of get used to it.”

Van der Westhuizen said medical boats were deployed to keep a watch on them.

“Every year we do a big swim. Next year, we are planning on swimming in the fastest current, but we’ll see if it happens.”

Van der Westhuizen said he was glad he swam for a good cause.

“We paid from our own pocket to take part. In the end, we raised R1,5 million, which goes to charity.”

Steynberg said although Madswimmer agreed to share the awareness surrounding the depletion of the Dead Sea, all money raised goes to South African children’s charities.

In 2015, Madswimmer members broke Lewis Pugh’s highest swim record when they swam in hypothermic conditions at 5 909m above sea level in the Andes.

Also read:

“Tooth King” smashes world record

Dance school wins big in 2016

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  AUTHOR
Eliot Mahlase
Journalist

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