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'I don't entertain fear': Meet South Africa's daredevil
07:47 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Carina Bruwer has overcome some of the most dangerous waters in the world

The classically-trained musician is now on a mission to raise money for youth cancer charities

CNN  — 

Carina Bruwer isn’t your average classically-trained musician and businesswoman. She likes to swim with sharks for fun.

Explaining her extreme pursuit, Bruwer is coy about the risks: “I don’t really entertain fear. Of course it’s there…. I acknowledge it, I deal with it. When the voice says to me ‘There are sharks here, this is a dangerous place to be, the human body doesn’t really belong here,’ I acknowledge that and then I respond: I say I chose to be here – I want to be here.”

Bruwer’s passion has seen her battered, broken and unconscious in some of the most hostile waters in the world.

And yet she’s come out swinging every time.

Feeding on fear

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A classically trained musician turned swimmer
08:06 - Source: CNN

Bruwer’s first hair-raising escapade occurred in 2005 when attempting to cross False Bay in the Western Cape – a distance of 21 miles. Five hours in she was being pulled from the water. Hypothermia had set in.

“For the first four hours I was basically shivering under the water. Suddenly my body became warm and comfortable. I remember them saying from the boat ‘Carina, we think you should get out, you’re swimming in circles.’ I remember wanting to say no, I am finally warm, but I couldn’t talk. Next thing I knew woke up on the boat, and it wasn’t pretty.”

In 2006 she finally lay her demons to rest, becoming the first South African woman to swim across False Bay.

“[It] was a peach of a day,” she recalls. “It was just about putting my head down and getting to the other side.” And as for the monsters in the deep? “It’s very hard to swim for 11 hours knowing that this is [great] white shark territory: the water has a bit of a bite to it.”

The lure of the ocean

Bruwer cut back on swimming afterward, and when she became a mother spurned the ocean entirely: the sea was too dangerous and her days too busy.

Her band, Sterling EQ, is a runaway success, and has performed over 900 times since its inception in 2007. The band also gave Bruwer the idea to start her own entertainment agency, connecting fellow performers with clients. But it was a show at a child cancer fundraiser that started Bruwer’s journey back to the waters’ edge.

“I always thought swimming was maybe a bit of a selfish thing,” Bruwer explains. By organizing a “Swim For Hope” however, she had a new purpose. “It wasn’t just for myself, I was literally swimming for the kids.”

There have now been five such swims raising money for the Little Fighters Cancer Trust. Re-inspired, Bruwer has a new task at hand. “Challenge, hope, opportunity, and just finding our place in the world – that’s my vibe.”