In the Swim

If you can swim, you’ve probably stood at the Mirador del Río, looked at La Graciosa and wondered “Could I do that?” After completing the 26th Travesía A Nado del Río, Shaun Addison’s still wondering…

Río means “river”, and the strait between La Graciosa and Lanzarote is so-named for good reason. It’s a stretch of water with constant tidal flows that make swimming a real challenge. Hundreds of swimmers, including me, discovered that last year when a strong current made the crossing a gruelling test they were unable to complete in the given time.

This year I’m feeling more confident – I’ve covered the 2.6 kilometre distance several times in training, and an unforgettable meeting with a wild turtle on my swim two days before the event seems like a good omen. Despite hurricane warnings, the normally choppy seas look like a mirror on the drive up to Órzola, and the ferry trip is calm. Read more...

However, nothing on Lanzarote’s north coast is guaranteed, and competitors soon receive the disappointing news that waves off the beach at the foot of the Famara cliffs mean that the boats can’t get over to drop the swimmers off. An alternative route has been marked out, heading out of Caleta de Sebo’s harbour into the Río, rounding a large buoy and returning to harbour and the finishing line on the town beach. At 12 o’clock, 607 swimmers assembled on the ramp, raring to get into the water – especially after it started to rain.

Swimming in open water with hundreds of others is very different from the solitary training swims I’m used to. You get slapped and thumped plenty of times, although never too seriously, and you have to continuously lift your head above water to sight the route ahead. But for much of the race, it’s simply a matter of getting your head down and putting those strokes in.

My only difficult moment comes just before the finishing line, when a fellow swimmer accidentally clobbers me on the head and pushes it underwater just as I’m taking a breath. I get a good lungful of sea water, but manage to choke my way through the gate.

Then it’s just a matter of scrambling onto the beach, getting my breath back then queueing up for a heart plate of paella prepared by La Graciosa’s finest lady cooks.

Remembering Alejandro
16 year-old Federico Bini was the winner of the 26th Travesía. The 16-year old from Arrecife finished the race in just 34 minutes, beating two other island lads, 15-year olds Javier Betancort and óscar Martín by a matter of seconds.

The women’s race was won by the 41-year old veteran swimmer Rebeca Santos, who was also followed by two teenagers.

The domination of the race by young local swimming hopes was fitting for an event that was dedicated to the memory of the 2016 winner, Alejandro Candela, who died suddenly in June this year at the age of 18. Alejandro’s photo was on the buoy that marked the turning point of the race, and competitors held a minute’s solid applause, rather than silence, at the lively warm-up session.

Other participants included Pedro San Ginés, President of the Cabildo, who swam at the side of his sister Ángela, while the unstoppable Anna Lis Gasque, accompanied by husband Kenneth, took the podium as the winner of her age group.