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Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar

Defying the currents and his own limitations: In September, Joseph Heß will face the challenge of swimming from Spain to Morocco

  • Highly motivated: TU employee Joseph Heß at his training camp near Barcelona. Photo: Marcel Melzer

Up to six days a week in the water, clocking between 20 and 30 kilometers – Joseph Heß’s training program is no easy feat. Since February, the research assistant in the Professorship of Ergonomics and Innovation Management at the Technische Universität Chemnitz has been training almost every day, in order to successfully cross the Strait of Gibraltar in September of this year. “I was looking for a new athletic challenge, since I tested my form last year with 24-hour swimming. That went so well that I started asking myself what other big goals I could find and face in open waters,” Heß explains and continues: “After doing some research, I chose to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.”

In the sea, the industrial engineer doesn’t just struggle against strong ocean currents that can stretch the 16 kilometer distance to as much as 24, but also strong waves, salt water and busy ship traffic – all of which don’t exactly make the attempt a walk in the park. But Heß doesn’t have to make his way from Spain to Morocco all on his own – he and two of his fellow swimmers will make the crossing in neoprene suits supported by two escort boats. Due to constantly variable conditions, the exact starting date is not set, rather simply a window between the 8th and 12th of September.

Growing up, Heß first became acquainted with the sport of swimming through his work as a lifeguard. “But because it had been so long since I had been regularly active, my training was more than just counting the tiles in the swimming pool, I also had to improve my swimming technique,” he explains. Laura Niklaus, a colleague from the Professorship of Human Locomotion, helped Heß refine his technique and prepare for further training. During the semester, he also practiced with the TU Chemnitz’s athletic swimming course in the Schwimmhalle Bernsdorf. “I train strictly according to the Spanish organizing company’s plans, so I can be in top form on the big day. For me, that means swimming between four and five kilometers in addition to running and strength training.” From time to time, it can become lonely. So, Heß found a trusty training partner and important source of motivational support in Marcel Melzer, employee of the TU’s Honorary Professorship of Nanoelectronics Technologies.

With multiple training camps behind him and his almost-daily training sessions, Heß is ideally prepared and highly motivated as he enters the last few weeks before the big swim. “If I feel good on that day and I can get in the water under the best conditions, I am positive that I can manage it under four hours,” Heß says and adds: “Maybe this is just the beginning of other big crossings to come.”

(Author: Lars Meese, Translation: Sarah Wilson)

Mario Steinebach
09.08.2016

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