Simon Griffiths travelled to the Turkish Riviera to take on a new event in the Oceanman series
Some of the best views of Alanya Castle are from the sea, which is one of the many reasons that make Oceanman Alanya such an enjoyable swim. Mostly built in the thirteenth century, the well-preserved castle walls sit on top of rugged cliffs and must have been an ominous deterrent to potential attackers.
Luckily we weren’t trying to storm the castle, merely swim around it. The castle lies on a peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean from the lively Turkish resort town of Alanya. Starting on the eastern side, at Keykubat Beach, we swam south alongside the small harbour, past the lighthouse, the imposing Red Tower and Old Shipyard and then around the curious finger of rock that sticks out some 500m into the sea before we turned north towards Cleopatra Beach. Swimmers doing the 5km challenge finished here (and returned to Keykubat Beach by shuttle) while 10km swimmers exited the water briefly, crossed the timing mat, grabbed something to eat and drink (if they wanted), and then returned to the water and did the swim again in reverse.
Big event atmosphere
Turkish Riviera Challenges (TRC) have been running swimming, cycling and multisport events in Alanya since 1991. In 2019, the company partnered with Oceanman to deliver a new open water swimming event for the Oceanman Series but at the same time one with a long track record in Turkey. Abdurrahman Açikalin and Alper Şensan, TRC’s owners and managers, both have considerable experience as athletes and event organisers and were able to deliver a safe, well-run swim with the big event atmosphere of an Oceanman and a warm welcome to the 500+ local swimmers taking part as well as visitors from 23 different countries.
Proceedings kicked off on Saturday with registration, kids’ races, relays and the opportunity for an acclimatisation swim. Turkish television was on site interviewing local and visiting elite swimmers. The race briefing was delivered in three languages: Turkish, Russian and English. Information was also displayed on two large screens, so it was easy to understand the course and requirements. Briefing moved smoothly into an all-you-can eat pasta party and a chance to get to know some of the other swimmers.
The final countdown
Race start was a civilised 9:00 the next morning for the 10km, which meant there was time for breakfast in my hotel first. Motivational music, live commentary, TV cameras and buzzing drones help create a mood of anticipation and excitement. Swimmers were called to the start area about 10 minutes before nine. As the hour approached, a hush fell over the assembled swimmers while the music volume increased. A TV camera on a long boom panned over the nervous faces while a drone hovered overhead. Suddenly, the music stopped and the final countdown began. Ten seconds later, the hooter sounded and we charged into the water.
Conditions were perfect, with zero wind or waves, blue skies and water at around 20 degrees. The water was clear and the quality good (despite being next to a town with more than 300,000 inhabitants, the beaches are blue flag standard). Large buoys supplied by sponsor Swim Secure made the course easy to follow – although I did make one navigational error when my view of a turn buoy was blocked by a feed station. Fortunately, one of the safety boats quickly pointed me back in the right direction. Live commentary and a noisy crowd welcomed swimmers back to Keykubat Beach, where there was also a fabulous offering of fresh fruit and local pastries to start the recovery process.
A prize-giving ceremony took place later in the day and this was followed by a surprise excursion on a large
party boat for a chance to dance (if you still had the energy) or just relax and enjoy views from the sea
of the floodlit castle.
Name: Oceanman Turkey
Water type: Sea
Distances: 1.5, 5 and 10km + relays and kids’ races
Temperature: 20 – 22 degrees
Wetsuit policy: Optional.
Tow floats mandatory.
Feed stations: Two on the water, one on land at 5km.
Find out more:
What else to do
A visit to the castle, along with the Red Tower and Old Shipyard is a must. Locals will tell you to take a taxi or use the cable car to reach the castle but it’s perfectly possible (and quite fun) to walk up following the line of the castle walls. For spectacular views of Alanya head up to a viewing platform at Seyir Terasi (a taxi from the town centre cost about £6). From here you can walk further into the hills or eat at the (moderately expensive) restaurant. If you’re so inclined, Alanya also sounded and looked like it had a vibrant nightlife.
Getting there and accommodation
The two nearest airports are Antalya (2 hours by road from Alanya) and Gazipaşa (30 minutes by road). There were no direct flights to Gazipaşa from the UK at the time of the event but you can reach it via Istanbul. Alanya is a large tourist town popular with visitors from Scandinavia, Germany and Russia so there is a full range of hotel options including all-inclusive packages. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés along the beach front within easy walking distance of the event HQ, and taxis are cheap if you want to explore more widely.
Images: Katia Vastiau