In the end, I swum Gibraltar for a few reasons, none of which seemed all that clear to me at the time (although I am sure that there were what pushed me to do the swim), but mostly I was stuck debating the use of a wetsuit. The reasons for swimming the Strait, however, have all come to light during this post Gibraltar week in Madrid, and I couldn‘t be happier about my decision to swim the Strait. The first reason was that I had been planning to do it since I arrived in Spain, and had been training intensely since I got here, something which has taken a lot of focus and determination. The second, and for me the most important reason, is that I wanted to complete the swim in recognition of the kindness and support that has come my way from the newfound friends in Spain, the people who fed me and helped me to train and encouraged me along the way- I actually felt obliged to do the swim. I also simply wanted to have the luxury of swimming for a really long time in the open ocean, to swim for so long that I could forget about time and even space and just feel the cool expanse of the waters around (and also feel protected by the support boat that accompanied me). And the final reason for swimming across Gibraltar is that I hope to organize a team of Moroccan, Spanish, and American (U.S.) swimmers, and complete a round trip traverse of the Strait as a relay in July of 2010. Completing the swim on my own has given me the confidence and the expertise to organize this swim.
The Strait of Gibraltar is not only the tiny piece of water that separates the European and African continents (as well as the wealth of each country), but it is also the confluence of the waters of the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. The tides and currents in the Strait are, in blunt, gnarly. Standing on any hill in Tarifa that overlooks Gibraltar, one can clearly see the waters moving via strong currents. Distinct zones within the Strait are visible, defined by what looks like a river of white caps flowing past a body of calm water. Interestingly enough, I was told that the passages of calm waters are actually, where the lateral currents are strongest: the white caps are formed by the wicked winds that persist in the Strait, and the currents can be so strong that they actually tear the white caps apart and calm the waters.