A FORMER journalist became the first person to swim solo non-stop and unassisted from Pulau Perhentian to Besut in Terengganu.
In a private event called Perhentian Channel Solo Swim 2021, Ridzwan Rahim entered the water at 4am from Alunan Resort on the popular resort island accompanied by a kayaker, an escort boat and a photography boat.
By the time he landed at Bukit Keluang Beach in Besut nearly nine hours later at 1pm, history was made in the Malaysian swimming arena.
Ridzwan, who is also the event organiser, said prior to his feat, there had been no account of anyone swimming along this route.
The straight line distance between Pulau Perhentian and Besut is 17km, according to Google Earth.
However, swimmers rarely register a straight line when swimming in open water due to chops, currents and other elements of nature.
For his swim, Ridzwan completed a distance of 19.087km with a time of 8:56:30.
The swim was carried out in accordance with the Marathon Swimmers Federation’s (MSF) Rules of Marathon Swimming and met the stipulated criteria.
Throughout the open water marathon, Ridzwan remained in water for the duration of the swim and refrained from holding on or making intentional contact with the escort boats, personnel or other objects.
Besides using the standard equipment such as goggles, swim cap and swimwear, he did not receive assistance for his feat.
During the event, Ridzwan was escorted by his team which consisted of team leader and observer Abdul Razak Abdul Aziz as well as another observer Tsuyoshi Amzar Sawada, along with other supporting crew members, namely Mohd Hafizuddin Amlin, Damien Ong-Yeoh, Ariff Budiman Abdul Halim, Mohd Fahmi Zainal Aripin, Wan Nor Hisham Wan Razak and Azrol Mohd Yusof.
The team is in the process of submitting the documentation of the feat to the MSF for ratification.
If successful, the event will be the first-ever ratified swim from Malaysia.
MSF requires a minimum of two trustworthy observers for unprecedented swims such as this one from Pulau Perhentian to mainland Terengganu.
When asked his reason for attempting such a feat, Ridzwan, who was once a newspaper journalist, said he was simply acting out of curiosity.
“For many years I have wondered if I could swim from Pulau Perhentian to the mainland. Now I know the answer, ” said the 44-year-old, who has been swimming in open water since 2013. In 2017, he swam 16km by himself around Pulau Perhentian Besar.
Ridzwan said the project was a challenge to put together amid the many restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I consider it a miracle that my team and I managed to travel to Pulau Perhentian to execute our plan, ” he said, adding that during the four months that he trained for the swim, he endured setbacks such as pool closures due to the movement control order.
He added that the Perhentian Channel Solo Swim 2021 was made possible with police travel permits as well as support from relevant authorities.
Team leader Abdul Razak said the team had planned well for the 19km swim and was pleased with the outcome for the most part.
“The weather was perfect, the sea was calm and the tide and wind seemed to be in our favour, ” said Abdul Razak.
“It was only in the last 600m before reaching Besut that we encountered strong currents that hampered our progress.
“This caused us to exceed our original target of eight hours.
“Nevertheless, it has been a particularly memorable swim for everyone involved.
“Some of us have been in this sport since the 1990s before it was even called open water swimming.
“Ridzwan’s amazing solo feat is a major leap forward. I believe we will now see a new wave that will inspire locals as well as attract international swimmers, ” he added.
Ridzwan, from Kajang, Selangor, said he was grateful to the Besut district office, Royal Malaysian Police, Besut Fire and Rescue Department, Besut Malaysian Civil Defence Force and the Tok Bali, Kelantan chapter of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency for their assistance.
To commemorate this achievement and promote the sport of unassisted marathon swimming, the team has set up a Facebook page (Perhentian Channel Swim), and has made Damai Beach Resort Camp in Besut its base for future open water swims.