Traditional open-water ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons struggles against 37 km an hour winds in 2017 with safety crew members Ray Este and Collette Heneghan in the nearby kayak. Conditions became so rough that Simmons was forced to pull out. This year, Simmons plans to attempt two massive swims: a continuous unassisted double-crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria to Port Angeles, and a continuation of last year’s Great Bear swim, from Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast to Vancouver Island. (Photo contributed)

Island woman plans two massive swims this summer

Water adventure fundraisers for MS and First Nations youth camps

Whatever the distance, Victoria swimmer Susan Simmons is willing to go.

‘Every time I get in the water, I challenge myself,” said Simmons, who plans to attempt two massive swims this summer: a continuous unassisted (no-wet suit) double-crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria to Port Angeles, and a continuation of last year’s Great Bear swim, from Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast to Vancouver Island.

Her swims are aimed to raise awareness for environmental issues, and to fundraise for the MS Wellness Centre and the Heiltsuk First Nation youth camp program.

Simmons is a traditional open-water marathon swimmer, which means she only wears a traditional swim suit, a swim cap, and goggles while in the water.

“If I wore a wetsuit, that would help me in a lot of ways, like controlling my body temperature or helping my muscles, and I want to do it naturally,” she said.

In earlier years, Simmons swam up until the age of about 15, but didn’t return to the sport until she was 40.

“I was diagnosed with MS, and swimming helps control my symptoms,” Simmons explained, noting the water helps keep her body cool while exercising. “Heat can trigger an MS attack.”

The swimming started off in the pool, but Simmons was looking for more of a challenge.

“I was worried I was going to get bored. I wanted new goals and challenges to keep myself fit,” said Simmons. So she took to the ocean, and has never looked back.

“Being out there in the water is amazing,” said Simmons.

She trains year-round and approximately 30 hours a week, getting in the water usually twice a day, or doing another form of exercise including weightlifting, paddling, or biking. In the winter, Simmons also tries to get in the water for lengthy amounts of time to help better adjust to the temperatures on her marathon swims.

While enduring the long swims, Simmons calms herself into a meditative state and tries to focus on her strokes and breaths.

“I’m aware of the risks, but to me these swims are just about the experience, getting out there and having fun. When you’re out there totally surrounded by blue, the sky above, the water all around you, and you look down below you and all you can see is blue… there’s nothing like it. It’s a surreal feeling,” said Simmons.

If she is successful on her swims this summer, Simmons will make history.

The Great Bear swim takes place on June 6 and 7, starting at Lama Passage, where she will swim approximately 20 kilometres each day until she reaches Koeye River. Along the route, through Heiltsuk territory will include a stop at a camp for First Nations children.

Last year when she tried the Great Bear swim, she was challenged because the area is so heavily populated with humpback whales.

“They hear or see something that’s unfamiliar to them so they come and check it out. One swam up underneath me once, but they are not there to hurt us, they are just curious and it is such an honour that I get to share these bodies of water with them on my swims” said Simmons.

The Juan de Fuca swim will take place in August.

She will have a team of 10 people, including a coastguard following her along both journeys. The team will pass Simmons food and water as she stops every half hour to regain energy.

Those who wish to track the Great Bear swim can visit greatbearswim.com.

The Great Bear swim is raising money for the Heiltsuk youth camps, called the QQS Projects Society, which helps teach Heiltsuk youth about their traditional values, practices, and laws. To donate to the program, visit canadahelps.org.

Just Posted

More sailings coming to Haida Gwaii

The B.C. government says Haida Gwaii’s two BC Ferries routes are among… Continue reading

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Mold shuts down construction at QC supportive housing project

Construction of the new 19-unit modular housing complex in Queen Charlotte has… Continue reading

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Regulator’s report, coming today, unlikely to settle Trans Mountain pipeline battle

The Trans Mountain pipeline will remain a controversial topic both in the political ring and out

Australian woman killed in avalanche at Whistler

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but she did not survive

Most Read