Across Victoria Harbour: A Swimming Milestone

“I like to just think of myself as a normal person who just has a passion, has a goal and a dream and goes out and does it. And that’s really how I’ve always lived my life.” ― Michael Phelps

(16th October) Accompanied by a two-beat kick, my arm stanches like windmill arc motions forward, caressing the moving water, locking on and pressing it back.  I made every endeavour to extend my hand further and keep body balancing, and continued battling against the swirling currents while being pushed backwards at the same time.  Could you imagine I was once a little girl, being scared of gilding with my face down into the pool during most of my childhood, was now at the choppy centre of the Victoria Harbour, one of the world’s busiest ports against the backdrop of towering skyscrapers?

Every day, thousands of ferries, container ships and transport cargos, with engine pressed, cleave over the white-crested waves and deep waters of the Victoria Harbour.  However, for three hours this morning, such busy traffic was replaced by flocks of eager swimmers like us who raced 1.5km from the pier of Lei Yu Mun to the opposite one in Quarry Bay once a year.  Since 1906, the Cross Harbour Race, despite its suspension from 1979 to 2010, has been an iconic event in Hong Kong with vibrant photos of sturdy athletes diving in the Victoria Harbour, forming a colourful display between the gorgeous cosmopolitan landscape of two sides.

This year, palpable excitement and cheering buzzed in the morning air as the invigorated swimmers were queueing up all the way to the pier, wearing ankle electronic transponder and tethering orange tow float to our waist to aid visibility in the water.  Myriads of us were chattering in excitement to one another about their recent swimming experience; while some others were stretching to warm their muscles for final preparation.  At that moment, an opening speech boomed over the crowd, with guests wishing us an enjoyable swim.  Three thousands of us, immersed in such an encouraging ambience with ear-shattering applause, were altogether waving our hands and exclaiming “We are ready!” in confidence.

“I want to test my maximum and see how much I can do.” ― Michael Phelps

Route map, from the official website of the Cross Harbour Race
Entrance of the race
Race preparation

While sunlit clouds drifted across clear blue sky under the balmy weather, the expanse of blue water stretched in every direction to the horizon, with a water temperature of 27 degrees.  After the marshal raised his deafening start gun, the glassy blueness of the sea gradually teemed with churning white puffs and sharp orange tow floats as swarms of swimmers leapt into the water in vivacity.  Among a scrum of wind-milling arms, I was also in the water with rhythmic freestyle strokes, kept my legs straight and ankles relax, and let my flutter kicks continue in steady motion.  In such smooth swim, time elapsed like a brink when I soon arrived at the first buoy full of energy.

Despite my confidence to participate in this Cross Harbour swim in these two consecutive years, it actually took years for a younger me to surmount overwhelming fear towards the water.  Those were the struggling months when I huddled at the edge of the training pool and started whimpering for fear of drowning.  Those were the tough times when I dare not to hold my breath and crouch down until my nose is under the shallow water, and those were the days when I asked my mom not to let me attend such kind of lessons anymore with moans and groans.  It wasn’t until I met another coach who whispered encouraging words to me that I could conquer the fear of drowning if I ever reached my first step with courage.   He offered me his helping hand as he stood in the pool beneath me, and to my disbelief, after his patient teaching, I eventually ended up learning the basic technique of swimming weeks later.

Participants waiting in line to join the race
Towards to the starting line of the race
Spectacular view of the start of the race

I almost lost in deep thoughts of my childhood swimming experience when a canoe drove in front of my vision, and a lifesaving guard there kept reminding me to swim rightwards and follow the main route back.  At that moment did I figure out how distant I had already separated from the nearest orange tow float, due to the interference from choppy water and reducing the visibility of my goggles.  With currents dragging us away from the course line during the halfway swim, I still set great store on maintaining my streamlined body and keeping speedy kicks in whirling waters, as well as turning my head as smoothly as possible while breathing regularly in every four strokes.

Nowadays,  every time when being enveloped in the water, it is like I am in an alternative world, an enchanting private world that is free of defy gravity and lets the weight of study pressure be thrown into the abyss of oblivion in that particular hour.  Far from hectic life and clamours, it is an invaluable personal moment to clear my dreary mind just by being alone without knowing how time flies, or just to listen to the subtlety of the melodious water sound when slogging through thousand mindless metres, or powerful water splashes when sprinting with a quickening pace.

“I feel most at home in the water. I disappear. That’s where I belong.”

– Michael Phelps
I might be one of them in the photo! 🙂
Swimming with the view of high-rise skyscrapers
Near to the finish line

The Victoria Harbour seemed to look serene at the beginning of the race, but in fact, the waves became much stronger especially in the last few hundred metres.  They kept rushing back and forth, soaring up and down, hitting me primarily right in my chest and pushing me backwards.  Mouthful of salty water was soon reached my goggles and I could taste it over my lip when the unfavourable currents continued pulling against me.  Though in face of the rough sea, I stretched my stroke out further and surfed with the waves, despite not making much progress.  I felt like I had to grasp massively on the water, with a huge amount of resistance in each pull.  Over the distance lies the a last buoy and a red spot that indicated the finish line, yet the swim seemed tediously endless when I was floating parallel and battling against swirling currents.

However weary I was against the opposing stream, my heart lifted with sheer relish when finally slapping the touchpad and reaching the finish line, knowing that I had just accomplished an open water swim by stretching own limits.  This long-distance race of crossing the famous Victoria Harbour seemed tough with rippling waters, twisted waves and a blazing sun.  Yet, the courage I took the plunge in this swim, the relentless faith that I empowered myself to remain persistent, and those blood, tears and sweat I had been devoting in such endurance pastime finally prompted me to rise to this challenge.  Other than sustaining endeavour and unyielding determination, there is no magical formula of transforming myself from resisting to swim in teary eyes to conquering the waves of Victoria Harbour,  with pride.

Tracing back my ups and downs in my swimming experience, I realise how much I have been making the most of my leisure time to polish my skills, and how much I have been immersing myself in pushing myself for longer distance and faster pace with unwavering enthusiasm.  Conquering the fear of drowning and the unknown, of what might be lurking below the water surface, of the insecurities of constantly changing sea tides – is all about an iron of will and the “never-give-up” attitude.  After all, it is my conviction that, just like this Cross Harbour swim, everything strenuous will be overcome in each aspect of life if we stride towards our goals against all odds.  Nothing is impossible. ♦

“I wouldn’t say anything is impossible. I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and put the work and time into it.”  ― Michael Phelps

At the finish line
Race Souvenirs

Some photos attribution to: New World Harbour Race

Linked to “Breakthrough” in WordPress’s Daily Prompt

18 thoughts on “Across Victoria Harbour: A Swimming Milestone

  1. Apart from the inspiring anecdote and adventure, I think each paragraph is written with fantastic literary finesse. It makes reading more satisfying and of course, thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Truly, if you really focus you can triumph.

    Best wishes to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amitav, it is a pleasure for me to capture the sights and describe my innermost feeling of this memorable swim into a chain of heartfelt words. Nothing can be more wondrous than having found a lifelong pastime and staying committed to it throughout all the years. My greetings to you and sincere thanks for your encouraging comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 從最初怕水不敢游泳到有堅毅的信心游出大海。我相信都是要經過時日努力不懈的鍛鍊、教練的鼓勵、家人的支持及個人自強不息的特質才造就今天的妳!

    繼續努力, Bauhinia!! 💪🏊😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 謝謝Cactus的鼓勵。若當年沒有遇到啟蒙教練,沒有家人悉心栽培或中途自我放棄,我想我今天不會在波濤洶湧的大海奮力而戰,逆流而上。透過這次渡海泳的經歷,我相信只要秉持着鍥而不捨,堅定不移的精神,重重障礙和難關均能跨越。

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It is never too late to accomplish anything challenging if we are willing to step out from our comfort zone and strive for a breakthrough. I am certain you will be amazed by how surprisingly far you have come across afterthat.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It is unforgettable, though physically demanding, to participate in one of the large-scale sport events in my city. I still feel amazed that swimming becomes my personal pastime now despite my fear in childhood.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Accomplishing this open water swim has always been in my bucket list. It is through months of consistent endeavour and perseverance for me to achieve this goal step-by-step. Where there is a will, there is a way! ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post! I can’t believe you did that. Kudos to you! I miss that city like crazy. Sometimes I wonder whether I should just get a job there. Few cities in the worlds can top HK. Actually, let me rephrase that. No city in the world can top HK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it was one of the greatest life accomplishments I have ever achieved. I feel so fantastic to know that how much you admire the wonder and the energetic vibe of my city. HK welcomes you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s