Cameron Bellamy’s attempt at swimming around Barbados is just a few weeks away and the highly anticipated event is causing a huge stir among the passionate swimmers and the wider community on the island. It’s estimated that about 70% of the population in Barbados are not proficient swimmers so the notion of someone swimming 96K around the island is mind-boggling to most of the residents. Many people on the island will clearly remember older relatives warning them in their childhood: “the sea has no back-door” and this folklore possibly contributed to the general apprehension of swimming in the sea that still exists today.
The growing interest is further fuelled by the disbelief that anyone would try to swim along the east and north coasts that face the Atlantic Ocean, due to the strong and unpredictable currents along that side of the island. Countless Barbadians consider these coasts to be “non-swimmable”. Local open water swimmers generally swim along the south or west coasts where there are ideal open water swimming conditions.
The Oceans Seven Swimmer who hails from South Africa is well aware of the mammoth undertaking that lies ahead of him. It could be the longest swim of his life and it’s a feat that has never been accomplished by a solo, unassisted swimmer. In fact it seems the high level of difficulty, including 36+ hours in warm water, the expected ocean currents and the distance, are what has motivated him to undertake this complex challenge. The thirty-six year old Bellamy has been training for the Barbados swim for over a year and recently drew much attention along the island’s coasts with his arduous program of training swims ranging from 8 hours to 16 hours almost daily with a twenty-four hour swim before he departed. He has thoroughly enjoyed his swimming in Barbados commenting that many of his swims are in dark, cold water and likening the warmer clear Barbados waters to that of an aquarium, where he has sighted many turtles, a sting ray, tropical fish and beautiful corals during his swims.
In addition to the endurance challenge of this and previous swims, Bellamy’s adventures serve a greater purpose and this is raising funds for children’s education. Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, it was evident to Cameron, on a daily basis, that he was privileged. Throughout his childhood, he saw children his own age on the street, not attending school and this memory stayed with him. He attended Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, which is the most underdeveloped area of South Africa and during this time he grew to love the region and its people. After completing a Masters Degree in Queensland, Australia and working in investment banking in Bejing, Cameron set off on his first endurance expedition - a solo cycling trip over four months and a distance of 6,500 km through Western China, Central Asia and India. The innumerable hours on the bike led him on a journey of self-reflection and laid the foundation for the Ubunye Challenge, the charity he founded in 2011. The organization has made a significant contribution to early childhood education in poverty stricken regions of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Over the past several months Bellamy has endeared himself to many on the island of Barbados with his modest and friendly personality. Despite his relentless training schedules when visiting he has met with and inspired many young competitive and recreational swimmers, swam with numerous local masters swimmers and visited with representatives of children’s charities (Variety Club and Bright Water Kids) which he intends to support. Behind the unassuming façade is a guy with two Guinness World Records, who can converse in Mandarin, has rowed the Indian Ocean, founded a highly successful charity before age thirty, swam the Oceans Seven and who is the CEO of a cyber security firm in San Francisco.
When he returns to Barbados in late August to attempt his swim around Barbados its expected that a plethora of Barbadians, swimmers and non-swimmers, will give him a rousing send-off, view his progress online and from numerous vantage points around the island while earnestly hoping for an epic outcome. Whether he makes it or not he has already made a lasting impression on the community and given open water swimming on the island a massive boost. He has already made plans to return to the island in November to swim in the Barbados Open Water Festival, much to the delight of Festival regulars! Follow #SwimAroundBarbados for updates and live tracking of the swim attempt. Learn more about the charities that will benefit: SwimAroundBarbados for Charity.