Europe to Africa Swim

Our next adventure begins in September 2024!

Team NZBLUE is switching Bikes for Speedos and Goggles to take on one of the 7 major straits in the World - The Gibraltar Strait!
Swimming open water between Europe (Spain) and Africa (Morocco), the up to 22km swim depending on tides and conditions is completed as a pod of 4, but is an individual event. 
All swimmers must be near each other, but no drafting or assistance is allowed. At the time of writing, only 2 kiwis have completed this crossing.
*Details for the swim below is sourced and attributed to OPENWATERPEDIA 


The shortest distance across the Gibraltar Strait is from Punta Oliveros (Spain) to Punta Cires (Morocco) with a total distance of 7.8 nautical miles (14.4 kilometres).
Because of the characteristics of the crossing between these two points, it is not the most suitable course for the swimmer. Most of the attempts have been made from Tarifa Island to the vicinity of Punta Cires having to swim between 09 to 12 nautical miles (16.5 to 22 kilometres) due to the influence of the strong currents which prevail in the Strait.
Only in the case where the swimmer attempts the double-crossing (round trip) can the start of the crossing from the Moroccan coast be envisaged. The swimmer has the possibility to touch the African coast from Cires point till Almina point, near Ceuta (this is the last possibility to arrive).


The fundamental factor remember in the crossing are the currents which at any moment of the trip, may reach more than 3 knots (5.5 Km/h) taking care that this moment coincides with the final part of the event, in such a way as to help the swimmer to reach the Moroccan coast, increasing considerably the advance speed. This Association has registered currents until 7 knots (near 14 Km/h) in some periods of spring tides.
Generally, the selected hour for the crossing is two or three hours before high water and, if possible, with a medium coefficient of tide (the tide coefficients may vary in the Tarifa area between 0,4 to 1,2) which does not mean that the trip may not be made in any other hour and tide conditions, depending on the swimmer’s fitness and stamina and the availability of staying time in the zone.
The currents in the Gibraltar Strait are, generally, eastbound since the influence of the water contribution from the Atlantic to Mediterranean seas prevails (due to the high evaporation of this sea) over its own currents by the difference of tides. All these influences as well as the special orography of the area cause us to find throughout the course currents of different intensities and directions and also different temperatures and or salinity.
At selected departure hour, normally, we can find a westbound counter current very close to the Spanish coast which must be taken advantage of by the swimmer to reach advance toward the west. Around high-water, the current practically disappears and it is from one hour after the high water when the current increases its intensity with an east direction, the moment in which the swimmer must be located in a good situation from Tarifa Island to finish the crossing helped by the strong eastbound currents of the south part of the Strait.
The last crossings carried out in this way have given a high index of success and it is reflected in the navigation charts (issued by the Association) by a concavity curve westward with an almost straight part with arrival in Punta Cires or vicinity and, sometimes, almost a straight line joining Tarifa Island and the point before mentioned in Morocco.
As a conclusion we will say that the swimmer starts the crossing two or three hours before high-tide on an average coefficient day and coincides this hour at dawn with a southwestbound course until high water. After that, the swimmer will take a southbound course which one will keep until the swimmer is located west of Punta Cires, where he/she will swim towards the Moroccan coast.
The tracking of the swimmer is plotted on the nautical chart of the escorting boat as well as on the radar screen of Tarifa Traffic all the time. At any moment we may change the swimmer’s course if he/she is separated from the initial previsions in any way.
The selected day for the crossing will be based on the high-water/low-water hours (which should coincide with the dawn) and the coefficients of the tide (which should be within acceptable margins); as such conditions usually prevail for several days, for a certain month, a series of days which fulfill the suitable
crossing conditions, are determined.
We must only then wait for the wind and sea conditions to be appropriate. This, however, is impossible to forecast until at least one or two days before the event. Many swimmers have had to go back to their country without crossing the Strait after having stayed many days in Tarifa and even have had to refuse the event due to a sudden change of wind when they had been swimming for several hours.