Being a part of the ocean.
For many years I have come to the island of Ibizia to spent my summer vacation. Close to our accommodation there is a beach with a cove and a buoy. Every summer I swim out to that buoy and watch the busy beach from afar.
In February 2012 I would hit the water for the first time in winter. I was fascinated by the crystal clear water as well as the deserted beaches. It is perfect idyll. My plan was to swim out to my buoy, but the water was so cold that my body couldn’t enter the water completely, let alone swim. When I left the water I was completely hypothermic and cramped up but I decided to come back the year after to swim out to my buoy again. In order to be able to do so, I took cold showers for an entire year. I started with 20 seconds, but after some time I was able to take longer cold showers. One year later, at the same time in winter, I went into the ice-cold water again. My training really paid off, the water was still unpleasantly cold, but I managed to swim out to that buoy. Once I reached it, I climbed on top of it and watched the beach. I did it.
At that time, I had no idea that I would cross the English Channel with its chilly water temperature of 15 degrees Celsius only two years later. This experience was the beginning of my career as long-distance swimmer and participant of the Ocean’s 7.
When I am out swimming in the open ocean, I feel very priviledged. Not everyone has the opportunity to swim out there at night. I really feel some kind of connection to the water, I literally personify it when I talk to it. I perceive this feeling as an unconditional love. For me water reflects life since it is the foundation of life on our wonderful planet. The more I am deeply ashamed when I see what mankind does to the oceans when I consider CO2 emissions, plastic pollution or ocean acidification to name just a few.
I am deeply concerned about this development.
We all know that we are only guests on this planet but we are not really aware of this fact. We ignore what our actions lead to, even though it is obvious that our oceans suffer. Ocean pollution is an increasing problem and I became well aware of this fact when I was hit by a pallet or got caught in a plastic bag out on the open sea. Every year 13 million tons of trash end up in the ocean. 80 % of this plastic trash is brought into the sea by rivers, the shipping industry is responsible for the remaining 20%. Especíally microplastic makes it increasingly difficult for the marine life. It does not matter if is tuna, cod, herring, mussels, crabs or shrimp – microplastic causes severe constipation and inflammation. Yet it has not been investigated what kind of negative effects this might have on the human body.
How is it possible that a country like Kenia is able to enforce a law on banning plastic bags from public life and the western world is still lagging behind? Since August 2017 producers, vendors and vendees of plastic bags face prison sentences and hefty fines (up to 32000 Euros/$ 36000). Before that time up to 100 million plastic bags have been given out by supermarkets solely in Kenia.
The Dutch Bojan Slat is a worldwide pioneer in the field of extracting plastic pollution from the oceans. His project Ocean Cleanup aims to clean 70% the earth’s surface and the first cleanup operation is to start in 2018. Hats off for that vision.
If you want to contribute to cleaning up, you are welcome to join one of beach-clean-up activities which are held regularly. Dates and events will be announced on my homepage. Everyone is welcome!
Route: from the Japanese island of Honshu to the island of Hokkaido
Distance: 19,5 kilometers (12,1 miles), distance swum: 45 kilometers (28 miles)
Dangers: sharks, Humpback Whales, strong currents, high waves
Water temperature: 18° Celsius (64° F)
Finishing time: 12 hours 55 minutes
My experience: The biggest challenge in the first part of the swim were the waves, which moved in opposing directions. In addition to that it was pitch-dark night and the outside temperature was very low (15° Celsius/ 60° F) since there was heavy rain. In conditions like that you do not only think about yourself, but also about your team and crew who were struggeling to stay onboard.
Luckily it the sea calmed down during the second half of the swim, but we still faced strong currents which made it difficult to reach Hokkaido. Swimming an average pace of 4 km/h (2,5 mph) only brought you 300-400m (330-440 yds) closer to the coast.