Former journalist Ridzwan makes waves with record-breaking Perhentian Channel solo marathon swim

Ridzwan A. Rahim fuelling up.

While many grumbled and moaned about the many Movement Control Order (MCO) and Emergency restrictions, Ridzwan A. Rahim did not let that stop him from completing a historic swim last Sunday.

The former journalist is the first person to swim across the Perhentian Channel from Pulau Perhentian Kecil to Besut in Terengganu. He completed the 19.087km swim in 8’56:30s.

“I am the first person to complete the challenge. However, the Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) will have to ratify that it was a solo challenge,” said Ridzwan, who is now the primary caregiver for his father, Datuk A. Rahim Abdullah.

“My dad has Parkinson’s disease so I quit my job to take care of him. Before planning my trip, I asked him and my mum (Datin Fatihah Isahak) for their blessings and I am glad they gave it.”

Ridzwan said it would have normally taken him three months to prepare for the challenge but after committing to the swim in November, it took a month longer due to the many permutations of the MCO and the Emergency declared by the government.

Although that meant he could not train in swimming pools for long periods, Ridzwan found alternative ways to keep fit.

Route of Perhentian Channel Solo Swim
Ridzwan’s route from Pulau Perhentian Kecil to Besut.

“I did lots of running and skipping and that helped build my endurance. Whenever the pools were allowed to open, I was back in,” said the single father of four.

“My coach (Shauqie Aziz) devised several training routines for me. The running and skipping worked wonders as the first time I was back in the pool, I managed to cover 5km.

“The furthest I did in the pool was 13km,” added Ridzwan, who trains at PJ Palms Sports Centre in Petaling Jaya.

Asked why he decided on the solo swim, Ridzwan, who swam 5km from Besut to Pulau Rhu and back on Sept 14, 2020, said that was the trigger to try a more ambitious distance.

“I asked my swimming friends what they thought about swimming across the Perhentian Channel. I was surprised no one wanted to do it,” said Ridzwan, who described himself as not a strong swimmer.

“I think part of the reason is it is not scenic. If you swim around the islands, there are nice things to look at.

“It can get lonely out in the ocean. It gives you plenty of time to think.

“I had a fantastic crew supporting me but marathon swimmers cannot rely on help when it comes to eating or ‘fuelling up’.

“The rules state I cannot hold on to any object while in the water. I could collect food and drinks but that is all,” said Ridzwan, who ate and drank every 45 minutes.

“The most surreal experience was my subuh prayers. I had to ‘float’ on the water with my feet pointing in the direction of the Qibla.”

Ridzwan gives thanks after reaching Besut.
Ridzwan gives thanks after reaching Besut. – Picture courtesy of Ridzwan A. Rahim

Ridzwan, who had hoped to complete the swim in eight hours, said he was not disappointed to have exceeded his targeted time.

“It was a new challenge for everyone involved. I have gained more knowledge and a newfound respect for that body of water.

“If anyone else wants to attempt the swim, I am ready to help them.”

Ridzwan sent a special shoutout to his crew – coach Shauqie, leader and observer Abdul Razak Abdul Aziz, Tsuyoshi Sawada Amzar (observer), Damien Ong-Yeoh (crew), Mohd Hafizuddin Amlin (kayaker) and photographers Ariff Budiman Abdul Halim and Mohd Fahmi Zainal Aripin.

Ridzwan needed a minimum of two observers to document the facts of the swim and things like water temperature, air temperature and wind speed as per MSF guidelines.

Anyway, today is the 375th day since the start of the original MCO and this is the 41st weekly edition of ‘The MCO Diaries’.

FOUR DAYS OF HIGH CASES BUT RECOVERIES STILL STRONG

Last Saturday, for the first time since Feb 24 when we had 3,545 new cases and 3,331 recoveries, new cases outnumbered those cured of Covid-19.

We had a spike of 1,671 cases against 1,585 those cleared by doctors. Three other days – Sunday (1,327 against 1,247), Tuesday (1,384 against 1,058) and Wednesday (1,268 against 1,083) also saw more cases than recoveries.

The only good news is that despite those four days, the total of those cured (9,468) in the past week was still higher than new cases (9,401).

Overall, as of yesterday, we had 339,443 cases of which, 323,925 have been cured (95.43 per cent recovery rate). Another 24 deaths brought fatalities to 1,249.

Worldwide, the number of cases exceeded 126.18 million and more than 2.76 million deaths.

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THIS IS ME

Got this via WhatsApp.

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ELECTRIFYING PERSONALITY

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SIGN OF A GENIUS

It has been said that absent-mindedness is a sign of superior intelligence.

I am wondering if I qualify since in the past one month, I have forgotten my laptop (twice!) on the way to work, misplaced my car and house keys numerous times, forgotten to bring my water bottle to the office on more than one occasion and worst of all, left my wallet at home when I have gone for badminton and to the office.

Or, maybe, I am just getting old.

Nah, I will stick with what the scientists say!

CHANNEL SWIMMER

I was torn between Loudon Wainwright III’s superb ‘The swimming song’ or this number by English rock band 10cc.

In the end, I opted for ‘Channel swimmer’ as it closely resembled what Ridzwan went through.