Capetonians get in the swim with revamped 36ONE Openwater Series
Since Capetonians Steve Liptz and Warren Fialkov started working tirelessly to professionalise the 36ONE Openwater Swim Series in Cape Town earlier this year, the number of swimmers at the events has multiplied.
The idea for the series came about two years ago, when Liptz swam in a Cape Town-based swimming event that the Fialkov family, a Jewish family, had been running in the city since 2005.
“I found an amazing legacy which the family had created, but entering the swim was cumbersome, to be honest,” Liptz says. “The website hardly worked. It took me an hour every time I wanted to register for the next event. It was a fun swim, but the administration and operational side needed work. I wanted to do something about that.”
Liptz and Fialkov went all-out, putting in much more time and effort than they had envisioned to ensure all aspects of the race were top-notch. They have put on four events so far.
“I’m glad we’ve done it properly,” Liptz says. “We’ve got everything – a brand new website, an excellent event entry system, social media presence, a lot of communication via email, and specific differentiated communication for different segments of interested people. We have professionalised it. All the staff now wear the same kits, so people can recognise who’s who. Everything’s branded, and we brought in specific sponsors. It’s been great fun. It’s like having a start-up again, just doing what you want to, and trying to be successful.”
Liptz says people are loving the race, according to the race’s surveys and those he has spoken with.
36ONE Asset Management, the company Liptz co-founded, runs several events, such as a mountain biking event. It also sponsored a cycling side called 36One Songo Specialised, and has a mountain biking team, which once boasted the late two-time Absa Cape Epic winner, Burry Stander, and Olympic bronze medallist, Swiss Christoph Sauser.
“All the money and everything we gave to the mountain biking team, none of it went to the cyclists, but to the kids of Kayamandi, a township near Stellenbosch,” Liptz says. “These kids would certainly have landed up on the streets without our support. Some of them ultimately became international cyclists. It changed their lives, and it’s still going to this day. We do it as a way of making a difference to South Africa. We’ve really stood by our belief since the beginning of 36ONE 18 years ago that education through sport will make a difference to South Africa.”
Liptz’s plans for the series encompasses “creating a lifestyle and a family type atmosphere so that people come together, get to know each other, spend time outdoors getting some vitamin D, and exercising their lungs. Also, all the benefits of cold water. This series has a double benefit – it brings people together with the benefits of cold-water swimming. A lot of people in Cape Town have been doing cold-water immersion, simply putting themselves in cold water for traditionally a 20-minute period to get all the benefits it may bring.”
Liptz would love the series to become an international tourist destination, in which people would add cold-water swimming to their to-do list in the city. “That would be the ultimate objective because then, you’re doing good not only for Cape Town, but for the country as a whole.”
He describes himself as an average swimmer who upon moving to Cape Town two years ago, thought pursuing the activity would be a great way to spend more time in the sea. “The more I did it, the more I liked it. I continue to like it more and more, so I’m just one of those guys who joins the events and does the swims.”
Liptz says the swim series offers “a fun way of exercising because it doesn’t feel like you’re exercising. You’re in a group, socialising, and challenging yourself, your time is recorded, you can set goals for yourself, and you can meet specialists in the field, whether it’s from a nutritional or coaching point of view, or any aspect which would help you with the sport. Our sponsors include nutritional experts.”
The series has swims for everybody, Liptz says. “We have events on the same day. We have different swims and categories starting from beginners all the way to advanced categories in which Olympic champions have swum.”
For example, the 36ONE Openwater Race Experience is a 90 or 180-minute swim for beginners. Spectators are encouraged to watch from the shoreline or boats anchored off the course.
Another swim in the series is the 36ONE Off-The-Beaten-Track Swim from the scuba dive site of Cosy Bay to Oudekraal Beach. When the visibility is good, swimmers can easily see the flora and fauna on the seabed and in the kelp forests, and maybe spot a diver too.
“We give prizes at the end, but to make sure it’s not just about the winners, we give away random prizes,” Liptz says.
The series’ upcoming events are the Off-The-Beaten-Track Swim on 17 December, 14 January, and 18 February; the 36ONE New Year’s Day Mile and the 36ONE Clifton Mile Swim on 1 January; and the 36ONE Viking Swim Challenge on 18 March.
On top of all these swims, Liptz says, “Being involved in a new event encourages us to find additional ways to give back and support the local community. We think we’ve found an amazing initiative. We’re just finalising a few things before announcing what it is.”