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Bay father's "record-breaking" journey after brush with death

Supplied


Well-known Nelson Mandela Bay businessman Gavin Biggs has taken to long-distance swimming like a duck to water, and it took a near-death experience to do it.

The father-of-two was struck down by Covid in June of last year and very nearly didn’t make it out alive.

The 50-year-old Biggs lost eight kilogrammes while in hospital and during his recovery, was reduced to walking with a walking stick for ten weeks. He has built himself up slowly from there.

“The swims were never meant to break any records but for self-fulfillment in my journey from my near-death experience with Covid,” the owner of City Paint & Tool told AlgoaFM News.

“The swims and the Triathlons are for me to show how one can come back after being so ill. My Covid experience in itself was life-changing and taught me to be so grateful for life and take so much less for granted.”

On the 3rd of March this year, Biggs tackled the 7 km Robben Island swim to the mainland in 13-degree water temperature to test his swimming abilities. It took him two hours, and looking back, he says it was a breeze compared to his two most recent swims.

On the 2nd of April, Biggs embarked on a 14.5 km swim across Plettenberg Bay from the Robberg ‘Wreck Beach’ to Keurbooms Strand coming out at Enrico’s Beach. “It took me 4 hours 51 minutes in notoriously sharky waters around Robberg and a chilly 14-degree sea temperature.

Once I had completed the swim the NSRI and local swimming authorities told me it was the longest swim in the Plettenberg ‘Bay’ so I’ve certainly banked that one.”

Then for the big one, the Algoa Bay Crossing on Thursday 13 May. The swim was a jaw-dropping 22.2 km long and took Biggs 8 hours and 9 minutes to complete.

He set off at first light with his wife Lynn seeing him off from Blue Water Bay central beach as he headed straight into the main shipping lane for the PE Harbour.

The NSRI, Ports Authority, SAPS, Gardmed Ambulance Services and NMB Beach Activities were all informed and involved on the day.

As fate would have it, the skipper on the Safety Boat was the same skipper that internationally recognized local long-distance swimmer Kyle Main used on a swim of roughly 18 km that he tackled in Algoa Bay many years ago.

“The rules of long-distance swimming are that you may not touch the safety boat at any time so I was either treading water or swimming for an entire working day,” laughed Biggs. “I swallowed a lot of seawater with rather unpleasant consequences as the sea conditions deteriorated in the second half of the swim, but I stuck to it and stopped every 30 minutes to top up with endurance food and electrolyte drinks. At the end of the swim, I went in to shock, but the Paramedic from Gardmed was there to wrap me in space blankets and warm blankets and put me into an ambulance to stabilise me.”



The skipper of the Safety Boat told Biggs that according to their records, it’s the longest swim in terms of both time and distance ever undertaken in Algoa Bay. “It certainly was never my intention to set out and try and break any records,” said Biggs. “I will probably do more swims and they will all be here in the Eastern Cape. It’s all part of my journey to self-fulfillment and to show people how blessed we are to have such a beautiful coastline on our doorstep.”

Under the guidance of former SA Ironman champ, Raynard Tissink and the Tissink Team squad, Gavin Bigg’s next event will be the Half Ironman in Durban in the first week of June.

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