Wikipedia describes Filfla as a small, mostly barren, uninhabited islet 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) south of Malta, and is the most southerly point of the Maltese Archipelago. Filflu (or filfluu), a small rocky islet some 102 metres (335 feet) southwest of Filfla, has the southernmost point of Malta. The name is believed to come from felfel , the Arabic for a peppercorn.
It goes on to highlight the environment, the history and more. Yet, what it fails to highlight is the rough sea that can be predominant during the month of November and the myths about the deep blue sea and what lies beneath. Personally, as a child I always believed that this was the mediterranean breeding grounds for the hammerhead shark. And it seems that I’m not alone in believing this….
When I heard that this year’s SwimAid fundraiser involved a swim from Filfla to Ghar Lapsi, a 5K to mainland swim, the challenge sounded rather attractive. I’ve been training hard these two years and so from a fitness point of view I could see this as a tough yet doable feat. I used to swim and still do but not such great lengths. Hence, I upped my swimming and did some long swims and submitted my name and donation to this worthy and challenging cause.
The swim was first scheduled to happen on Saturday 28 October yet due to rough weather it got postponed to the Saturday after. And so there we were at 7am in Ghar Lapsi getting ready for the swim and safety briefing. Conditions were not ideal, so much so that some safety boats could not be there. With a slight delay, we were all picked up and ferried out in separate boats to Filfla. The morale was high yet one could feel the tension as the boats bounced into the swell and nearly 1m waves.
On approaching Filfla our group jumped off the rib into the deep blue sea. Most wore wetsuits yet I feel more comfortable with just neoprene shorts. The sea was rough and you could immediately feel the swell and the waves. Like any long swim the first part is the hardest especially till you get into the rhythm. I’m a relatively strong swimmer yet I tend to breath from one side, rolling my head to the right. Others do both sides or from the left. Unfortunately for me, the swell and the waves where coming from the right side today!
Throughout the swim I hit a mental wall a couple of times. It was not the distance but the elements that made it hard. Yet, upon completing the swim it was the same hard elements that made it an even special feat. My post-swim facebook post sums up this unique experience.
“We were all exposed to tough conditions with waves literally smacking you in the face throughout the #swim. For me it was tough on the body but tougher on the #mind! Yet, you get out of the water tired but somewhat #stronger!
It was also one of those days where everybody is a #winner and not just us swimmers; the organisers, volunteers, sea support, families, friends and donors. Yet the biggest #champions are these #children that overcome their #ability with a commitment to swim, train & #persevere. The #parents welcoming us with makeshift tables in front of their car boots full of post-swim refreshments was genuinely #heartwarming and touching.
Thank you all for your encouragement on Facebook and thank you #swimaid2017 for this enriching #experience!”