Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Andrew Chin (41), Ram Barkai (53), Toks Viviers (47), Kieron Palframan (36) and Ryan Stramrood (37) from South Africa successfully completed the first of their three tough swims in their Patagonia Extreme Cold Swim Challenge.

Unbelievably impressive and it has just begun.

In the remote Patagonian region of South America today, the five swam 4K across the Strait of Magellan in gusting winds and a rough and cold ocean.

The Beagle Channel and Cape Horn are next. The Cape Horn swim around the southern tip of South America would be a first in water that is expected to be between 3-5°C (37.4-41°F).

The Strait of Magellan swim was held in unavoidable wind gusts up to 35 knots that caused heavy chop in water temperature that was measured at 4°C (39.2°F) by the Chilean Navy who accompanied them. Ram said, “The air temperature was about 15°C (59°F), but it dropped to 7°C (44.6°F) due to the wind chill factor by the end of the swim. We all made it and we’re feeling great. The ocean was incredibly rough and we were battered about quite severely. There were big waves and plenty of chop from the strong wind. I must have swallowed half of the channel. The current was strong and we must have swum almost five kilometers due to this. Although the water was cold, it didn’t feel like an ice swim. We all felt reasonably comfortable.”

Comfortable, of course, is always a relative terms in the open water swimming world.

Andrew suffered from cramps in his legs and had to be helped to his feet at the end, but he quickly recovered. The five swimmers finished between 1 hour and 3 minutes and 1 hour and 20 minutes as they were accompanied by a Chilean Naval boat as well as dolphins and penguins. “We are elated to have completed our first Patagonian swim after waiting for a day for gale-force winds to subside enough to swim,” explained Ram.

Their next challenge later this week is a 2K swim in the Beagle Channel which is expected to be about 4°C (39.2°F) and has been conquered by Lynne Cox, Patricia Sener, Cristian Vergara and Rachel Golub.

With gracious hospitality by their Chilean hosts and proper preparation in their hometown of Cape Town, the Patagonia Extreme Cold Swim Challenge is off to a great start – especially with their ground transportation.

Upper photo by Nasief Manie. For more photos, visit here.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association