Barend Nortje is a South African open water swimmer who is the fourth and faster swimmer to successfully swim the False Bay Crossing in South Africa. He set his record of 9 hours 44 minutes on 5 March, 2006 swimming from Rooi Els to Miller's Point.
False Bay is a natural bay that stretches along the peninsula's eastern coastline from the Cape of Good hope Nature Reserve at Cape Point to Cape Hangklip (Dutch/Afrikaans for "Hang(ing)-rock). It was named "False Bay" when early navigators mistook Cape Hangklip for Cape Point, which resulted in many shipwrecks in the bay with its strong cross winds and rocky routes. It is the largest true bay in South Africa and one of the great bays in the world. This icy Alantic water body covers approximately 1000km2, and the coastline, which makes up the Southern portion of the breathtaking Cape Peninsula, and includes the area from Muizenberg to Cape Point, is about 42 km in extent.
Crossing False Bay remains a daunting prospect for most hardened marathon swimmers, and an achievement that has eluded almost 90% of those who have attempted it. It must be said that the crossing has been attempted no more than 20 times, with the first success achieved by International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer Annemie Landmeters in 1989 and was repeated 15 years later in 2004 by South African Steven Klugman. In 2006, Cape Town's Carina Bruwer became the third swimmer, and a year later Nortje became the fourth and faster swimmer to successfully cross the False Bay.
The difficulty of this swim of about 45 km can be attributed to strong and unpredictable currents and winds, icy and often inconsistent water temperatures (ranging from 9°C to 20°C), and the fact that False Bay has one of the highest populations of Great white sharks in the world.
The Dangers From Sharks
False Bay is known for its abundance of huge Great white sharks. You only have to tune into any of the National Geographic Channel shark programs to get a good idea of what lurks below. It would be foolish to ignore the dangers, and while Landmeters and many swimmers who attempted the crossing in earlier years (including international legends such Kevin Murphy, and South African Channel swimmers such as Peter Bales, Hugh Tucker and Theodore Yach swam without a cage or any protection whatsoever; since 2004 all swimmers attempting the swim have made use of a Shark shield - an electronic shark repellent device attached to the swimmer's support boat.
Since records began in the 1800's, there has been around 122 shark attacks in False Bay, of which 46 resulted in serious injuries and 26 were fatal. Many believe that the number of shark attacks in False Bay have increased dramatically since Shark Cage diving began off Dyer Island in 1989.