Big 5 Swims
Photo Credit: Supplied

Cape Town-based swimming sensation Ryan Stramrood has successfully become the first person to complete the Big 5 Swims—AKA, five of the most challenging open-water swims in the cold waters of the Western Cape!


Western Cape, South Africa (12 April 2024) — Cape Town-based extreme swimmer and global speaker, Ryan Stramrood (well known for his swimming exploits and the inspirational stories he shares in his keynote addresses) recently made South Africans so proud yet again after he became the first person to complete the Big 5 Swims!

The newly created Big 5 Swims groups five extremely challenging open water swims in Cape waters, and is an initiative of the Big Bay Events team of Derrick and Debbie Frazer, who provide water safety to events and individuals. Assisting both first-time and experienced open water swimmers, they also offer training camps to prepare for big swims such as the English Channel and the False Bay Crossing.

Derrick Frazer says: “We conceived this as a challenge for SA swimmers, as the big international challenges such as the Ocean’s Seven and Triple Crown, are incredibly expensive. It helps motivate swimmers to look for new challenges and not limit themselves to the more common open-water swims. The swims are all longer than the standard Robben Island Crossing and it means significant training is needed. It encourages them to keep stepping up until they face the big Cape one – False Bay.”

The Big 5 Swims Comprises:

  • The Leopard – Cape Point (8km);
  • The Cape Buffalo – Dassen Island (11km)
  • The Rhino – RI West Coast Angle (18km)
  • The Elephant – Double Langebaan Express (24km)
  • The African Lion – False Bay Crossing (33km).

For obvious reasons, this sort of swimming is not taken on lightly. For Ryan, it’s an achievement that’s been years in the making. But, through determination, he has set an example yet again, for what is possible when you decide to find out what you’re capable of.

“I did not set out to achieve big things in swimming, it started with what was my ‘Everest’ at the time, the Robben Island Crossing,” says Ryan.

“I was in my thirties when I realised I had become a couch potato and joined a swim squad, where they challenged me to aim for the 7.3km cold water swim from Robben Island to Blouberg. When you conquer your Everest, it opens up a whole new world of what you thought was impossible, and this is what happened for me in 2003.”

Ryan successfully became the first Big 5 Swims finisher after he completed the RI West Coast angle in February. This is an 18 km swim from Blouberg Beach to the northern tip of Robben Island, where you then turn east towards Melkbos Beach. It’s a long way in icy water, and very difficult to assess the right conditions to take it on because of the two different directions you need to swim. Additionally, both legs of this are long (8km and 10km respectively), and it is most likely that one of the legs is going to be a lot tougher than the other. But, with this swim under his belt, Ryan has shown others it is possible to achieve.

More About the Big 5 Swims Champ

Amongst many swimming accomplishments, Ryan was part of the team for the World First USA to Russia Relay in 2013 (mainland to mainland), and swam the World First Official Ice Mile in Antarctica in -1C water temperature (2014). In 2021 he broke the record for the 33km False Bay Crossing in a time of 8 hours 39 minutes. These feats and many others have secured him three Guinness World Records.

By April 2024, Ryan had completed 140 Robben Island Crossings. His former Everest is now a regular training swim for him, one he encourages aspirant open-water swimmers to attempt.

“The point at which your body tells you ‘no more’, is usually far from it. We can all discover just how much we are capable of by pushing past what we perceive as impossible.”—Ryan Stramrood.

Sources: Website Submission 
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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