Port Elizabeth adventure swimmer Kyle Main has described his most recent swim between the uninhabited tropical islands of Mauritius as treacherous and unforgettable.
Armed with four shark shields, Main set out on the 20km channel from Serpent Island, 30 km north of Mauritius, to Flat Island with another local marathon swimmer SW van der Merwe, who was forced some way into the swim to bail out as a result of the conditions.
Battling heavy currents in deep seas, headwinds, chop aggravated by a full moon and the fear of wildlife, Main eventually completed the swim, operating at maximum intensity, in 4 hours.
“I guess I knew we were in for a tough one when the boat operators in the area had serious reservations about taking us out. Above the full moon tide and heavy currents, the area is reknown for sightings of enormous sharks, sperm whales and killer whales.”
“Windy onshore messy chop with a big swell period was what was in store for us. Add to that a full moon which multiplies the currents and tides strength.. We were in a 32 foot speed boat with 2 x 200 horse power motors and we were battling to get to the Island in the conditions.
“I remember looking at the color of the water at this Island. It looked an ice blue, with an untouched element to it. Almost pure with no human influence on it. That thought blocked my mind to the challenge that waited.
“The currents were extreme. For four hours I was never comfortable. The Ocean felt like it was constantly sucking me down and I had to put a large amount of effort to try and swim on top of the chop.
“The sea was raw and I could feel that I was not just dealing with one current. There were currents from all sides of me. At one stage I would feel it head on, then it would be head on and diagonal. Then it would change and come from the opposite direction. And making the swim much harder- I had to deal with very choppy water where I would be above the boat at one point and then drop down a large swell with the boat above me. I was working at maximum effort fighting my way through chop and currents. ”
“The water was so clear. I could see nearly one hundred meters below me. This can be a distraction on these swims as my sole focus was to stay in RHYTHM. That was my goal. If I loose that rhythm of quick feeds every 20 minutes and not stopping for anything else, I would not make progress in these types of waters.
“Everything was on track after 3 hours into the swim when I swam into a school of fish, that birds were diving into to feed. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the fin of a massive reef tip shark coming straight at me.
“I was obviously petrified at the size and speed of the shark, which turned when it got within a meter of me. I thought it may come back again and told the boat crew that I wanted to see the blades of the propellers of the motors right next me!
“This was a first for me. The last hour was painful. I had a head on current to deal with that was pushing me away from Flat Island. It was my most brutal swim to date and one that I will never forget.”
Main, who has earned a reputation for doing extreme first time ultra swims exceeding 20kms, spanned the Rottnest Channel off Australia in an African record time in June last year and swam the Straits of Gibraltar in the fastest recorded time that year – 2013.