Lanzarote to La Graciosa Travesía a Nado El Rio 2011, The River Swim

It’s funny how geographical features can sometimes be referred to in terms that completely belie their reality, like referring to the Atlantic Ocean as the pond. I mean, we’re talking over 4,500 nautical miles of ocean. The word understatement doesn’t really cover it.

Well El Rio (the river), which is what the participants in the Travesia a Nado El Rio have to swim, is a little bit like that. El Rio is the local name for the stretch of sea that divides Lanzarote from its satellite island of La Graciosa, the most north easterly point of the Canary Islands. Unlike the mental image of a lazy, slow moving body of water that the name conjures up, the reality is a stretch of 2,600 metres of open water which can regularly take pleasure boat and ferry passengers to the brink of sea sickness and beyond.

On 24th September 2011, over 600 swimmers will make their way to the tiny harbour of Caleta del Sebo on La Graciosa where, beneath the fluttering bunting, and encouraged and supported by crowds of spectators, they will register for their race number, their dorsal and their chip. There will be synchronised warm up sessions, massages, sunscreen application and photo calls on the white sand paradise island before the swimmers are ferried to Playa Bajo Risco on Lanzarote’s northern tip of La Harí­a for the 12.30pm start of the race.

El Rio is part of the largest marine reserve in Spain and although the water is only 10 to 12 metres deep, it can swell in the middle and the undercurrents can be deceptive. Last year’s winner came home in a time of 34 minutes and 38 seconds and 586 out of the 650 starters finished the swim. It’s a fantastic day out for spectators and swimmers alike and it’s the most popular of all the Canary Islands swim events, particularly as it allows visitors to enjoy a taste of paradise on La Graciosa.

All participants in this, the 19th edition of the Lanzarote to La Graciosa Travesía a Nado El Rio, have to be accredited as fit to do the swim before they can register and there are flotillas of boats, lifeguards and a helicopter on hand to ensure their safety. Places are limited so if you want to participate, complete your online registration before the cut off date of 7th September 2011.