Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world. Sandwiched between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, it is one of the most bio-diverse freshwater lakes in the world.
Lake Malawi was pioneered in a 25 km widthwise crossing by Dr. Otto Thaning and Lewis Pugh in 1992. Later, Abigail Thomson in 2010, and Milko van Gool and Kaitlin Harthoorn in 2013 crossed widthwise. A group of Madswimmers led by Jean Craven and including Greig Bannatype, Robert Dunford, Samantha Whelpton, Duncan Kukard, Michiel le Roux, Craig Massey-Hicks, Brent Massey-Hicks, Robert Logan, Karen Graaff, Melanie Bedford-shaw, Nick Comana, Shirley Milne, Nena Logan, Douglas Livingstone, Haydon Von Maltitz, Alison Hartley, Cara Gough, Deon van Niekerk, Jessica Comana, Candice Wadey, Jacqueline Marshall, Charlie Luckock, Darren Madgewick, Michelle Walford, Keiman O’Flaherty, Kobie Odendaal, Werner Whelpton, and Travis Johnson completed a 25 km widthwise tandem relay in 2016.
South African swimmer Martin Hobbs is forging a new lengthwise course. He is on his sixth day in an unprecedented 581 km solo stage swim attempt of Lake Malawi, swimming from north to south, the same direction as a major sailing race.
Hobbs described his progress, “We into day 5 today. Done 58 km so far. It is not what I hoped, but the currents, swells and heat – air at 30.2°C and water at 29.6°C – has been insane. We have almost covered 10% of the journey so far.”
With over 520 km to go, Hobbs explains his goal, “Six years ago, I underwent a spinal fusion operation for fractured discs in my back. This was not only painful but it put an end to my trials biking – something that was very dear to me. This took me to a very low point, it was devastating. Having been an South African Clubman Regional and Nationals championships, I was now told I wouldn’t be able to ride again.
Not one to sit around feeling sorry for myself and knowing there were people in worse off situations, I set off to find out what other sports were out there for people recovering from my operation. This is when I was introduced to swimming. Not only was it a very beneficial sport for recovery, but I found it to be just the competitive sport I was looking for.
Not even a year later, my wife and I entered our first Midmar Mile. It’s funny to look back at it now, how much we stressed so much about getting to the other side – it took hours of training, carbo loading, and many practice swims to get us there and all the stress wasn’t necessary. We finished in great times and we are now both heading for our 6th Midmar year in 2019 and it will be my daughter Jess’s second one next year.
In 2018 I completed my first 8 Mile Swim at Midmar. This is what made me wonder, ‘What is next?’
I couldn’t complete the 16 Mile, my stroke isn’t fast enough to finish in the allotted times and I needed a challenge to look forward to.
This brings me to Lake Malawi. It is the longest, straightest length that we could find for an open water swim.”
As Hobbs will face crocodiles, hippos, bilharzia and malaria throughout his stage swim, he has undergone numerous preparations. “Hopefully [my] precautions will be enough. They are definitely not enough of a hindrance though to not swim.”
Copyright © 2008-2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association