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Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Big Swim

Two friends are attempting to swim/kayak around Jeju Island to raise environmental awareness, specifically that each action and choice an individual makes will impact on the entire ecosystem. I joined the action on Sunday as a (not-so-effective) substitute for the kayaker. What follows is the guest blog I wrote for their site:

I gained new respect for Steve’s part of the Jeju Big Swim on Sunday when I stepped into his shoes (sat in his kayak) to accompany Sherrin on a practice swim. It was a perfect day when we left Samyang to drive to Hamdeok, from where she intended to swim back (thanks Mars, for driving duties). We passed through cloud and drizzle on the short drive, but the sun was shining brightly at Hamdeok’s smaller beach, beside Seowoobong. We loaded up the kayak and headed out and were just outside the official swimming area when Sherrin remembered she hadn’t stretched beforehand so stopped to do so in the water.
Both Steve and Sherrin had warned me that the swim would be tedious for me but none of us had factored in a brisk offshore wind. That, coupled with the fact that my lower weight had the kayak higher in the water, giving the wind a greater area to push, meant I was paddling flat out just to keep parallel to the shore. Each gust hitting the prow tried to turn the craft beam on and I would have given much for a small sail to take advantage of the elements. It in effect meant paddling a zigzag passage as the wind tried to take me out to sea and I tried to stay with Sherrin.
She told me the first marks we needed to aim for and we headed off, me fighting to keep on her flank but managing fairly well. The lighthouse we had set as the furthest mark before the coastline turned in had seemed a long distance from the beach but we reached it fairly easily. It was only past that point that I became the weakest link in the attempt as Sherrin started swimming straight into shore to stay close to the coastline. Fighting for every inch of leeway against the offshore wind, I was unable to keep up with her swimming speed and we had to call off the attempt after only about two hours.
Sherrin was swimming strongly and could have easily gone further but I was no use to her if I couldn’t stay close, and that proved impossible when headed straight into the wind. No doubt Steve, with a little more weight, a lot more paddling experience and a much better knowledge of his craft would have fared much better but one has to work with what is available, and this week that was only me.
Sherrin planned to spend the next few hours swimming laps at Samyang Beach and has one more weekend for a long practice swim before the Jeju Big Swim starts for real on July 31.

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