PICS | Take a dip with Cape Town’s local swim-risers

2020-02-11 04:45 - Jay Caboz
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A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Invigorating, life changing and breathtaking. These are just some of the words used by a very energetic group of locals that begin their day in one the most unusual ways – even for Capetonians.

For years, they have been greeting the sunrise with an invigorating swim at the Dalebrook tidal pool, one of the most loved and frequented tidal pools in Cape Town. Found off Main Road, between the picturesque Kalk Bay and St James, it is home to colourful fishing boats, artisanal coffee bars and quirky restaurants in Cape Town.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

A swim-rise at Dalebrook tidal pool. Photo: Jay Caboz

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Some locals have been taking swim-rise dips in Dalebrook for 11 years. Photo: Jay Caboz 


A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Local swim-riser, Shirley Hunt. Photo: Jay Caboz 

On this day, as the golden light peaked through the clouds, Shirley Hunt and her group of friends plunged into a very frigid Atlantic Ocean.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

On this day the temperature was 16.3°C. Photo: Jay Caboz

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Dalebrook tidal pool at sunrise. Photo: Jay Caboz

“16.3 degree Celsius (°C). Not too bad,” Hunt says as she pulls out a thermometer. “It’s a lot warmer than some were thinking it would be today.”

While most people would be crazy even dipping theirs toes into these waters, Hunt has been ‘swim-rising’ in tidal pools come foul weather, winter or stinging winds for the past two years. 

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

 “It is magical swimming at sunrise. One always experiences a variation of conditions for the weather, lighting, sea tides and temperatures. It’s never the same forever changing.”  - Cheryl Bongers. She has been swimming for a year. Photo: Jay Caboz 

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

 The swim-risers at Dalebrook tidal pool. Photo: Jay Caboz  

 “When we arrive in winter there are only a few of us, it’s cold and sometimes raining and it’s still dark. The moon and stars are still out. This is my absolute favourite time to swim, because as we are swimming the sun starts to rise. Your body amazingly warms up as you swim and when you get out you get a rush of warmth through your body called the ‘afterflow’,” Hunt says.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Shirley Hunt has been swim-rising for two years.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

 Swim-rising at Dalebrook tidal pool.

For Hunt, taking frigid swims in the Atlantic started out as a way to spend time with her daughter, before school and while also avoiding Cape Towns’ notorious traffic. But little did she know that this would evolve into a life changing event to which she hasn’t looked back.

“It’s so good for your body, mind and soul. For me it’s like meditation and the best and only way to start my day.  It has changed my life. It has become addictive and the connection with the other swimmers, friendships, laughter, fun times, tough times is something very special we share together.”

Hunt is a spring chicken compared with some of the veterans in the party. One of them, Sue Hull, has been swim-rising for a staggering 11 years.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Sue Hull who has been swim-rising for a staggering 11 years.


  Looking out over ocean.

“No matter what the weather is like there is always something uplifting about a sunrise swim. It is always different and always makes you feel alive,” said Hull.  

The distinctive chalky-white walled Dalebrook is part of 20 tidal pools in the the Western Cape. Each one with their own distinctive character.

According to the Kalk Bay Historical Association, it is the oldest tidal pool to have been built in the area, having started off as an illegal private undertaking back in 1903. It was later legalized, and then completed in 1907. Since then it has had several expansions.

Tidal pools provide the perfect escape for swimmers eager to overcome the heat of summer and Dale Brook is no exception and is ideally protected from the Cape’s notorious gusty ‘south easter’ making it a popular bathing spot for locals in the area. It also features benches and a small beach for picnics, with plenty of rock pools to explore.

For those clever enough to remember to bring goggles, there are often small schools of fish swimming about to share your experience. Along with plenty of anemones, nudibranchs and starfish hanging about on its walls.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Helen Brent. She has been swimming for a year.

“Each sunrise is completely different, it’s a form of waking up with the world, a connection with the ocean, a sense of hope. Not unlike the Christian form of baptism” said Helen Brent. She has been swimming for a year.

“Since ‘discovering’ Dalebrook through a friends early morning WhatsApp photo I have become passionate about swimming early morning. And a passion is invigorating is it not?” said Sue Frew, who has just started sunrise swimming a few months back.

A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Rowan Hunt, swimming for 2 years.

“The most invigorating thing about swimming, is the initial dive into the cold water which takes your breath away every time! After two lengths your body adjusts to the cold water and you become one with the pool,” said Rowan Hunt who has been swimming for 2 years.


A very energetic group of locals begin their day i

Here is the full list of tidal pools dotted across the Western Cape:

  • Camps Bay Tidal Pool - Victoria Road, Camps Bay
  • Dalebrook Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Dalebrook
  • Glencairn Tidal Pool - Glencairn Beach, Glencairn
  • Graaff Tidal Pool - Sea Point Beach Front, Beach Road, Sea Point
  • Harmony Park Tidal Pool - Jan Bruin Street, Strand
  • Kalk Bay 1 Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Kalk Bay
  • Kalk Bay 2 Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Kalk Bay
  • Maiden's Cove 1 Tidal Pool - Off Victoria Road, Camps Bay
  • Maiden's Cove 2 Tidal Pool - Off Victoria Road, Camps Bay
  • Milton Tidal Pool - Off Beach Road, Sea Point
  • Monwabisi Tidal Pool - Off Baden Powell Drive, Khayelitsha
  • Saunders' Rock Tidal Pool - Sea Point Promenade, Beach Road, Sea Point
  • Shelley Point Tidal Pool - M6, Glencairn
  • Silwerstroom Tidal Pool - Silwerstroom Resort, off Westcoast Road, Silwerstroom
  • Soetwater 1 Tidal Pool - Lighthouse Road, Kommetjie
  • Soetwater 2 Tidal Pool- Lighthouse Road, Kommetjie
  • Sparks Tidal Pool - Clarence Drive, R44, Gordon’s Bay
  • St James Tidal Pool - Main Road, St James
  • Strand Tidal Pool - Beach Road, Strand
  • Wooley's Tidal Pool - Off Main Road, Glencairn, Kalk Bay

*Source City of Cape Town.