One day in 2020, a group of five open water swimmers decided to add an extra challenge to their hobby – swim to help others – and they did just that!
Open water swimming over long distances is no mean feat and demands admirable stamina and strength. Even so, it’s hugely popular in Lanzarote and a regular competition is held here. Open water swimmer, Victor Barreto, tells us how with every stroke he and his fellow aficionados help people in need.
It all started in 2020 when Barreto and several other swimmers got together and decided to start the Reto Solidario (Solidarity Challenge) to raise funds. “The first of three Challenges was the ‘Vuelta a Nado Isla de Lanzarote’. It consisted of a 176 km swim around the island done in fourteen stages with all proceeds donated to the Lanzarote Multiple Sclerosis Association. The second was held in 2021. Training was tricky in post-pandemic times but the ‘Vuelta a La Graciosa’ was a 28 km swim around La Graciosa, done non-stop in nine hours. Between donations and sales of T-shirts and rubber caps, we raised 3,800 euros for research into children’s cancer and the Estrellita Mágica Yenedara Association.”
“The third, and for the moment, last Challenge was a crossing between Alegranza and La Graciosa. It was held on May 29th when we managed 23 km in eight hours. The proceeds, in this case, went to a family from La Palma who had lost everything because of the volcano.”
Barreto continues; “We’ve stopped for the moment so people don’t get donor fatigue. It’s also a huge undertaking to get everything organised. Despite the support of many groups, we have to pay for boats to accompany the swimmers (one for every seven), fuel, accommodation etc. Our charitable Challenges have attracted a lot of interest and we’ve had participants from all over the Canary Islands and mainland Spain. They all say they have loved the experience and the places they’ve seen.”
“The crossings generate their fair share of anecdotes too… like the time we were being circled by a five-metre shark in the area around Los Hervideros, they had warned us about it from the shore, but they are normally scared off by the noise and boats. Jellyfish are worse as they don’t get frightened! And then there are the currents and waves to deal with. But, personally, I like difficult conditions… And also being able to see the beautiful seabeds, like those between Costa Teguise and Charco del Palo.”